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FA plans for WSL “flawed and unrealistic” says new fan group

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Huge changes are coming to the women’s game after the FA announced plans for the WSL top tier to become professional only – Tony Farmer from FA WSL Fans United  outlines his concerns about the move…

One week into the new FA WSL season, the FA announced that from the start of the 2018/19 season, the top tier of the women’s football pyramid would only be open to teams that are or become full-time professional.

Existing WSL1 clubs have until the end of this week (10th November) to apply. Clubs outside of WSL1 have until March 2018 to apply for a place in what could be a 14-team division. 

In our opinion giving existing clubs only 44 days to secure the extra funding required, which in the case of Yeovil Town LFC is in excess of £350,000, is completely unrealistic. Clubs such as Yeovil and Sunderland earned their place in the top tier on the pitch, based on ability but now face being excluded on financial grounds, in a move that Katie Brazier, FA Head of Women’s Leagues and Competitions, amazingly stated in a BBC Radio interview as “being for the greater good of the game”.

We must state at this point that we are not opposing a professional top tier, but we are opposing it being an exclusively professional from the start of 2018/19. The timescales are unfair and unworkable for some existing Clubs, allowing no time to source funding streams and develop a sustainable business plan. 

Brazier said told BBC Sport back in July 2015 that “building things slowly is really important, because we want it to be sustainable”. Giving Clubs 44 days is hardly that!

The FA have given four reasons for wanting a professional top tier:

  1. To enable the England Lionesses to win the World Cup in 2023 and improve English Clubs chances of winning the Champions League
  2. To make the top tier more competitive and results less predictable
  3. To make the top tier more attractive for the FA’s Commercial Partners
  4. Double attendances by 2020.

 These are all valid reasons but the FA have failed to explain how rushing the proposals through will achieve those goals. In our opinion they will have the opposite effect.

Existing WSL1 clubs that are unable to make the step from part to full-time will be replaced by clubs from WSL2 (tier 2), FAWPL (tier 3) or even lower based on the financial ability to go full-time. At least two of the clubs that have indicated their intention to apply, currently sit in the bottom half of tier 3.

Promoting clubs who are struggling to be competitive at that level straight into the top tier to compete against the strength of squads that Chelsea or Manchester City possess is unrealistic and will reduce quality.

The FA seem to think that clubs throwing money at their teams to purchase a place in the top tier will make us winners in those competitions. They haven’t though explained how in the men’s game, awash with money, the performance in major competition at club and international Level has gone backwards.

We believe that the driving force behind rushing through these proposals is to try and create a women’s football equivalent of the FA Premier League, full of the supposed big and glamorous names to try and provide value for their commercial partners even if it means a fall in quality.

The FA’s target of doubling attendance to 2,000 each match is also flawed and an unrealistic target.

Liverpool, one of the five professional teams in WSL1 have an average attendance since 2016 of 663 for all home matches. That means they would need to more than triple attendance to meet the FA criteria. Bizarrely one of the semi-professional clubs that the FA appear happy to exclude from the top tier, Yeovil Town LFC have averaged 721 for the same period. Make of that what you will. 

The FA are always supposedly promoting equality yet they impose conditions and criteria on the women’s game that they would never attempt in men’s football. These proposals if implemented will end equality in women’s football with divides between the haves and have not.

We have set up a Facebook group – FA WSL FANS UTD – that has attracted over 500 members in 12 days to enable fans to air their views, for or against and a petition launched on Friday evening already has in excess of 540 signatures. We have also sent an open letter to the FA.

Thanks to joshjdss for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.

The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF.

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