It is a subject that is regularly discussed in the men’s game and the foreign invasion started to happen in the women’s game as well….or not. One FA employee mentioned in the Belles appeal stated that:
“The pre-screening team has worked on the assumption that a maximum of 20 FA WSL licences can be offered: 8-10 for FA WSL1 and 10 for FA WSL2. NB. If 10 FA WSL1 licences are offered, this may impact on quality and competitiveness of FA WSL1 and dilute the quality of FA WSL2 and reserves. It may also result in an influx of more Welsh, Scottish, Irish and other EU and non-EU players. There is a real concern that there is insufficient talent to field 10 competitive FA WSL1 squads at this time.”
Let’s see with the data I have collected throught the 3 FA WSL seasons. Note that some foreign players were registered by the FA WSL teams, but never set foot on the pitch in the whole season due to injury, not securing a work permit or just not being good enough (?).
The number of players registered in the FA WSL was 167 (2011), 169 (2012) and 192 (2013) . Note that the number might be incorrect as team don’t always disclose players that have been registered until you find on the teamsheet on matchday and the reports on the FA WSL are sometimes incomplete or incorrect unfortunately.
I am not 100% sure but I think the increase in the overall players’ number is due to the squad size was allowed to go up in 2013 ( from 20 to 23 plus loans) .
The number of foreign players was 35 in 2011 that’s 20.96%, 44 in 2012 that’s 26.03% and 49 in 2013 that is 25.52%.
As of today the current numbers of foreigners registered for 2014 is 39 down 10 from 2013 should the 8 teams have 23 players registered it would reach 21.19%
It was in constant increase 40% from 2011 to 2013 and grew overall faster than the total number of players which increased by 15% in 3 seasons.
Let’s have a look at the numbers by nationality through the 4 years, current year is in progress in decreasing order :
1. Wales 14,17,18,13 = 62
A big contingent as well for obvious reasons, Bristol having big share of those.
2. Ireland 8,11, 5, 2 =26
Quite a big contingent of foreign players come from Ireland as expected, quality players as well who have been established in the English league for a while.
3. Scotland 7,4,6,4 = 21
Another neighbouring country with a good number of imports.
4. Spain 0,3,4,3 =10
A few quality imports have graced the FA WSL especially at Bristol
4. New Zealand 2.3,2,3 =10
A small but regular contingent
6. Northern Ireland 1,0,3,3 =7
Another small contingent from the neighbouring country
7. Australia 0,4,0,1 =5
A very small number of players have come to the FA WSL, the work permit rule change that affected a player like Laura Alleway in 2012 probably did not help.
8. Canada 1,2,0,1 =4
4 players in the Canadian contingent, one of them did not make an appearance in 2012 as far as I know.
8. Germany 0,0,2,2 =4
2 players arrived at Liverpool this season and have been a big success and should be there again in 2014.
8. Iceland 0,0,3,1 =4
3 players arrived last season, 2 left halfway through the season, the last one should be around this year.
8. Sweden 1,0,2,1 =4
One of top six FIFA ranking country with a small number of imports.
8. USA 0,0,2,2 =4
All US imports coming to Liverpool
13. Netherlands 1,0,0,1 =2
Anouk Hoogendjik was there in 2011 and is back in 2014
13. Japan 0,0, 1,1 =2
Yuki Ogimi a World Cup winner has been around for the last 2 seasons.
15. Brazil 0,0,1, 0 =1
1 player Esther, she did not even complete the whole season at Chelsea
15. Korea 0,0,0,1 =1
Ji So-Yun just arrived in 2014
If we look at the last FIFA ranking
From the top 5 overall USA, GER, JAP, BRA, FRA 11 players overall No French player
From 6 to 10 SWE, CAN, NOR, AUS, DPR 13 players No Norwegian or North Korean player either
From top 11 to 20 ENG ITA DEN NED SPA NZL KOR CHI ISL SCO 68 players No Italian, Danish or Chinese player.
Below top 20 95 players
If we look at EU/Non Eu players
EU and assimilated : 136 ( unrestricted as per the European Union rules)
Non EU : 27
What all those statistics mean is the foreign invasion in the FA WSL has not happened. Around 75% of eligible English players in the League means a lot of choice for Mark Sampson and his staff. And the cheap foreign import wave you see in men’s football is not happening. This could only happen if the wages in the FA WSL start catching up with the professional teams on the continent.
PS: My current count in FA WSL 2 is 12 but most of the squad are not disclosed.