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© Alamy - Ebony Salmon during the WSL fixture between Aston Villa and Bristol City at Bescot Stadium

Women’s game: Fans continue to push for change

Last week the Government tabled the long-awaited Football Governance Bill in Parliament – and that legislation will create an independent football regulator.

The Bill will deliver radical reform to the governance of the men’s game but the eagle-eyed among you would have noticed that it covers the top five tiers of the men’s games – so what about women’s football? 

How we got here – a timeline

The Government originally committed to establishing an independent regulator in April 2022, and also said that “women’s football should be treated with parity and given its own dedicated review”. 

Come December 2023 the Government published its response to Karen Carney MBE who led a review into the future of women’s football with the FSA providing evidence and giving supporter representatives the opportunity to give their own views to Carney.

Carney’s blueprint aimed to “raise standards in domestic women’s football” – including supporting the FA and NewCo in the full professionalisation of women’s football and equal access to sport in schools for girls. 

The Government response set high standards too: “The new entity tasked with running elite women’s football should not settle for anything less than world leading standards for players, fans, staff, and everybody involved in the women’s game.”

With a focus on growing the game while examining its current financial health and financial sustainability for the long term, the review is of real interest to supporters and dozens of FSA affiliates and associates in the women’s game were given the opportunity to give their views to Karen Carney. The FSA also submitted evidence directly.

A key proposal by the FSA was to set up a working group after the review to look at how potential recommendations were being implemented – and we’re pleased to be involved in that working group which was announced earlier this week.

  • Interested in the future of women’s football? Read the Carney Review here.

At the time of the report’s publication Malcolm Clarke, chair of the FSA, said that the Football Governance Bill covering the men’s game should include future provisions to bring the professional women’s game into the remit of a national, independent football regulator.

He said: “We understand why, at this stage, the review takes the view ‘that the women’s game should be given the opportunity to self-regulate rather than moving to immediate independent statutory regulation’ and we hope that the report’s optimism is well-founded.

“However, with the future financial viability of many women’s teams so closely bound to men’s teams, the errors and wrongdoing of the past in the men’s game may, without independent regulation, be replicated in the women’s game.”

“To guard against that, the forthcoming legislation following the Fan-led Review should enable a future government to add the professional part of the women’s game to the remit of the independent football regulator if circumstances make that necessary.”

Women’s game – what next?

The FSA continues to represent supporters in the women’s game lobbying both Government and the football authorities on their behalf. 

Carney’s review recommended to DCMS the creation of a game-wide implementation group and, as outlined above, the FSA has a place on this body. The first meeting has now taken place.

Our work following Carney’s review will concentrate on the following areas:

  • Embedding fans in the new structure of the the top two tiers of women’s football;
  • Work with the FA Women’s National League and FA to continue to advocate for fans and look for various opportunities to embed them in the structures;
  • Represent fans on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport implementation group and impress on them the importance of diversity and connection between the whole pyramid in women’s football;
  • Work with clubs and supporters groups at a local level to increase standards of fan relationships and inclusion in decision making processes.

Head of women’s football at the FSA, Deborah Dilworth, leads that work, which not only addresses governance issues in women’s football, but the countless matchday problems faced by supporters following women’s teams too. 

Deborah Dilworth, head of women’s football at the FSA:

“The Carney review was a good opportunity for supporters to have their say on the future of the women’s game and we’ll continue to push for meaningful change.

“Supporters have to be a central part of the conversation as the game seeks to grow and thrive. We’ve always said that supporters are part of the solution, not the problem.”

If you’d like to get involved with the FSA’s Women’s Game Network, please contact: [email protected]

Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund

Partners

  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • Pledgeball