Changes to the Women’s game for 2018/19


by Andrew Crawshaw

For next season the top flight of Women’s football will comprise of 11 fully professional teams.  It will be called the Women’s Super League. 

The teams and their grounds will be:-

  • Arsenal – Borehamwood FC  Meadow Park ground
  • Birmingham City Ladies – Solihull Moors FC Solihull
  • Brighton and Hove Albion – Crawley Town’s Checkatrade ground
  • Bristol City Women – Stoke Gifford Stadium
  • Chelsea Women – Wheatsheaf Park, Staines
  • Everton Ladies – Select Securities Stadium Widnes
  • Liverpool Ladies – Select Securities Stadium Widnes
  • ManchesterCity Women – Academy Stadium, Manchester
  • Reading Women – Wycombe Wanderers ground, High Wycombe
  • Yeovil Town Ladies – Huish Park, Yeovil
  • West Ham United Ladies. – I don’t know where they will play next year, their Academy will be based at Barking Abbey School

Brighton and West Ham are new to this level of football and Sunderland have dropped out, unable to commit to the financial demands of having a professional team and a formal academy that are requirements at this level.

Brighton were in WDSL2 last season and West Ham were in the third tier so it will be very interesting to see how they will fare.

Yeovil who were outclassed this last season have retained their place, seemingly having raised the £350,000 they estimated it would cost them.

The WSL had the potential for 14 teams, but it appears that only 11 clubs have been able to satisfy the full set of criteria to participate.

Here is a reminder about the main criteria for WSL clubs

  • A minimum of 16 contact hours per week for players, rising to 20 hours by 2021/22
  • A minimum level of financial investment from the club whilst meeting 
  • Financial Fair Play Regulations 
  • A squad cap (the current cap is 23 players).
  • A youth academy at each club (no indication yet of who the academy teams will play against)
  • Continued rules restricting the number of non-English qualified players in matchday squads.  The current rules require that there be no more than 2 non EU national players so there is likely to be some further announcements in due course.
  • Clubs have to have a full time strength and conditioning coach and implement daily strength and conditioning programmes for players
  • There are minimum attendance levels (1,000 average per match 2018/19 rising to 1,500 for 2019/20 and 2,020 for the 2020/21 season).  This will require much more promotion by the clubs as many games are only played in front of a few hundred people.
  • The following staff are required as a minimum:-
    • General Manager (full time, minimum salary £35,000)
    • Marketing Officer (21 hours per week, no minimum salary stated)
    • Head Coach (full time UEFA A licence holder, no minimum salary stated)
    • Assistant Coach (UEFA B licence holder, to be present at all pitch based training sessions, no minimum salary stated)
    • Physiotherapist (to be in attendance at all training sessions and matches, and to oversee injury rehabilitation, likely to be at least 0.8 full time, no minimum salary stated)
    • GMC registered Doctor (to be present at all matches and available for consultation between matches, part time, no minimum salary stated), 
    • Strength and Conditioning Coach (full time, minimum salary £30,000)
    • Goalkeeping Coach (Goalkeeping B licence, part time, required to be present at all pitch based training and matches, no minimum salary)
    • Safeguarding Officer (minimum 1 day per week)

And here is a link to the full criteria for any insomniacs who wish to wade through 100 pages.

Tier 1 club licence criteria 644.2KB (PDF)

The second tier will be called the Championship and will be a semi-professional level.  It will be made up of 12 teams:-

  • Aston Villa Ladies
  • Doncaster Rovers Belles
  • Durham Women
  • London Bees
  • Millwall Lionesses
  • Sheffield FC
  • Tottenham Hotspur Ladies
  • Leicester City Women
  • Lewes FC Women
  • Manchester United Women
  • Sheffield United Ladies

There are a few new names here notably Manchester United (who haven’t had a Women’s team since 2005 and will have to start from scratch) and Lewes who surprisingly reached the fifth round (quarter final) of the Women’s FA Cup last season.

I am surprised but pleased to see Millwall as I understood that they were in serious financial difficulties and on the verge of going bankrupt.

Sunderland from Last Season’s WSL1 and Watford and Oxford from WSL2 didn’t apply for the new leagues and will drop down to the third tier – the new Women’s National League.  I would think that many of their players from last year will be sought by the newcomers so they may well struggle next season.

The season will start with the opening fixtures of the Continental Tyres Cup, which we won last season, over the weekend of 18/19 August and league matches will commence on the weekend of 8/9 September.

It will be nice to think that some thought will be given to a degree of co-ordination between the fixtures for Men’s and Women’s teams.  Many supporters try to get to both and it becomes impossible when they are played on the same day.  I suspect that that is a forlorn hope though.

Also, I would hope that the fixtures will be spread better through the season to avoid the situation last year where there were 3 games in a week followed by weeks with no matches.  I know there have to be International breaks but please keep things reasonable.

I’m sure there will be more to come before the season kicks off on 18/19 August.

From our series reviewing last season and previewing next season…

Part one: the review of the league season

Part two: Two cup finals in one season

Part three: Arsenal women in the FA Cup 2018, from Yeovil to Wembley

Arsenal Women: the players and what can we expect next season?