Back in 2013, licensing was given to clubs for the 2014-2018 period, so we are now getting close to the bidding reopening soon. hopefully next year but teams are surely preparing their application especially the potential new entrants.
The 2017-18 season will see a return to the winter season and we will have the following teams competing :
WSL 1 10 teams : Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Birmingham, Notts County, and two out of the following three teams : Sunderland, Reading and Doncaster. plus the two promoted teams
WSL 2 10 teams : the WSL1 relegated team,two of the four following teams Bristol, Yeovil, Everton and Durham, London Bees, Aston Villa, Sheffield FC, Millwall Lionesses, Oxford United, Watford Ladies plus the team promoted after the FA WPL 2016/17 play-off.
Let’s remember the minimum licensing criteria and the minimum budget which is matching what the FA give to the FA WSL sides
WSL 1 minimum budget is £140,000 and WSL 2 is £70,000.There is no doubt that the top 3 teams budget is not far from 10 times the minimum budget for the 2013-18 period so there is no doubt that their licensing will be renewed.
The big question is do all the 20 teams have done a good enough job to retain their licence, especially off the pitch. I mean the on the pitch fortunes can change very quickly and is clearly linked to budget and recruitment but on the marketing and infrastructure side, some side might be behind the targets.
If you also look at the FA targets in terms of attendance, I am not sure many have actually reached them in WSL1&2 this season.
I believe there will be a raft of new entrants application for the 2018 licences and the worse rated WSL team might actually lose their licence. we might even get a situation with teams actually not applying for renewal, if some of the parents club do not intend to back up their Ladies/Women side with enough cash.
There have been rumors in the women’s football world of Southampton or AFC Fylde looking to bid for a FA WSL place with good backing and also there is no real traction behind this, people always wonder if Manchester United could one day relaunch their women side.
At the end of the day, with a combined week’s wages of Rooney, Pogba and Ibrahimovic, United would certainly have a budget to compete with the current top 3 teams. It is a big question mark about the licensing process.
Will a new entrant access straight to WSL 1 like Manchester City did in 2014 and therefore kick-out from the division one of the team like it happened to the Belles, who were relegated one game into the 2013 season. Will the new entrants in WSL2 also kick out some of the WSL2 teams back to the WPL or lower divisions? It will be an interesting time when the licencing reopen next year.
And because there is no transparency on the bid selection, we will have the same conspiracy theory as seen for the 2011 and 2014 licences when people did wonder what had happened and why certain teams were selected rather than others. The only transparency we saw was for Doncaster because they appealed and therefore some stuff was disclosed.
Otherwise, everything will stay as opaque as it was for the first two times.