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June 2021

Yet more changes proposed by the FA for Women’s Football

by Andrew Crawshaw

From the start of the 2018 season, the FA intend to make radical changes to the makeup of Women’s Football.  Currently there are 20 clubs in the the Women’s Super League, 10 in each of the two divisions.  Eight of the clubs in WSL1 are fully professional, Sunderland and Yeovil are not, and all of the clubs in WSL2 (as far as I am aware) are mainly amateur (although most clubs will have some professional players).

The FA will reform the WSL into a single tier with between 8 and 14 fully professional clubs.  Each of the 20 clubs in the WSL and potentially clubs in the lower National Leagues will be invited to submit proposals for licences to the new top tier and the success of the applications will not necessarily be linked to the clubs 2017 league results.

All current WSL licences expire at the end of the current season, so the changes will be in place for the start of the 2018 season.  I inderstand that the new licences will require :-

  1. A minimum of 16 hours contact time per week for all players, rising to 20 hours per week by 2020/21
  2. A minimum level of financial investment by each club
  3. FFP regulations and a cap on squad size (I understand maximum of 20)
  4. An academy at each club, compulsory as part of the licence
  5. Rules restricting the number of non-English qualified players in matchday squads will also continue (currently the requirements restrict clubs to 2 non EU players

The intentions are to improve the overall quality of the Women’s game, offer better support to the England National Teams, maintain the competitiveness of the WSL and bolstering the chances of English clubs in the Women’s Champions League.

A fully professional league will probably be unique in European football as most leagues only have three or fewer clubs meeting the criteria.

There will also be a new second tier for clubs having part-time players.  This competition will have between 10 and 12 clubs, contact time for players will be 8 hours per week plus matches, each team at this level will be required to have a reserve team but there will be no formal requirement to support an academy.

Applications for the new licences have to be submitted by 10 November, whilst the top clubs will have no difficulties in meeting the new criteria the teams that are currently not fully professional will have great difficulties in meeting the criteris within the current time frame.

Yeovil Town are probably typical of the clubs in this position.  They are one of the two non professional teams currently in WSL1 having gained promotion in 2016.  They currently have no professional players, neither do they have an academy system in place.  Their general manager Trevor Jenkins has said in an interview to the BBC that

“Our ambition is to become a full-time professional club…. The FA want the top tier to become a full-time professional league and we fully support that…….Where our challenge lies is the timeframe and the limited amount of time we’ve got to raise, effectively over £350,000 to make sure we remain in the top tier…..”

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The Club Chairman added

“I am disappointed for everyone concerned with Yeovil Town Ladies, given what we have achieved…. We got into WSL1 by football merit, with a mixture of students, teachers, community workers and carers.  We’ve done that by beating in WSL2 a couple of teams who were full-time…..I don’t object to the thought of wanting to go full-time, but over time.  We set out a three year plan.  To suddenly impose it in the middle of a season, with a decision to be made midway through it, seems to me to be absolutely wrong.  These things need to be evolving, not dictated over a certain timescale”

As required by the current Licence, Yeovil Town ladies Football Club is an independent, privately-owned company with a separate owner and board of directors – none of whom hold any positions with Yeovil Town FC.

Yeovil Town FC – the men – is not in a position to inject any funds into the Women’s team as, like most lower league teams, they struggle to make ends meet themselves.

It is believed that West Ham Ladies currently in the third tier of Women’s football will be applying for the new top tier and Derby County Ladies also currently in the third tier are also interested in applying.

It will be strange if clubs currently two divisions lower than the top flight are allowed top progress by virtue of financial clout over clubs who have proven to be far superior on the pitch.  But there again that is exactly what happened when Manchester City Ladies bought their way into the WSL the last time Licences were reviewed.

Here is a link to the full criteria for clubs intending to apply.  The document is a 100 page pdf and will give some solid bedtime reading for insomniacs.

Tier 1 club licence criteria 644.2KB (PDF)

Schedule 8 clause 6.6 of the licence document has the following

The Club shall ensure a minimum attendance of 1,000 fans per match played by the club during the 2018/19 season, 1,500 fans per home match in the 2019/20 season and 2,020 fans per home match played during the 2020/21 season.  If the fans don’t turn up the clubs  risk being thrown out of the league.

Given that the typical attendance at the first round of Continental Cup matches was in the range of 145 (Tottenham v Bristol) to 641 (Sunderland v Durham) this requirement seems to present some clubs with a major problem.  The Arsenal game almost certainly had a higher attendance, but I haven’t been able to get the figure.

These changes will certainly create a major upheaval in the transfer market next summer as clubs seek to sign players of the requisite quality, particularly if the two non-English player rule is also introduced rather than the current two non EU nationals.

Currently Arsenal have the following 21 first team players

Position Nationality
Sari Van Veenendaal GK Netherlands
Anna Moorhouse GK England
Alex Scott RB England
Emma Mitchell LB Scotland
Josephine Henning CB Germany
Leah Williamson Defender England
Vyan Sampson Defender England
Louise Quinn Defender Republic of Ireland
Jemma Rose Defender England
Taylor Hinds Defender England
Jessica Samuelsson Defender Sweden
Jordan Nobbs MF England
Kim Little MF Scotland
Heather O’Reilly MF USA
Dominique Janssen MF Netherlands
Danielle Van de Donk MF Netherlands
Danielle Carter Forward England
Vivianne Miedema Forward Netherlands
Jodie Taylor Forward England
Lisa Evans Forward Scotland
Beth Mead Forward England

So 11 players registered to play for England, 4 Netherlands, 3 Scotland and one each from the Republic of Ireland, Sweden and the USA.  Entirely within the current regulations but outside the 2 non-English proposal (should that be enforced).  We have two players out on loan Chloe Kelly (England) and Katie McCabe (Republic of Ireland).

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