The FA open the FA WSL licensing from 2018-19, a short analysis

The FA have finally announced the opening of the licensing for the FA WSL from 2018/19 and as usual it is quite surprising to read.

The first line come as a shock as :

Applications will only be open to current FA WSL clubs – with 20 licences available (10 for each division).”

Basically any  non promoted FA WPL or newly created club will have to wait for their turn, unless one of the current team decides not to try to renew their licence.

“The FA WSL clubs have made great strides in the past six years and have demonstrated a massive commitment to the women’s game. It is crucial that we build on these foundations and work together to strengthen the standard of the league, which is why we have elected to firstly open the applications to the current FA WSL clubs.

The clubs have worked tirelessly since the FA WSL was launched to establish themselves, develop players and coaches and build their fan bases and its right that we reward that level of time and investment”

You could bet there are some FA WPL teams, who are better financially and marketing wise that some FA WSL 2 teams today, and on the pitch as well, but they cannot bid for a place.

As of today and pending the promotion for Yeovil and Bristol and Doncaster’s relegation, here are the expected teams for FA WSL 1 and FA WSL 2.

FA WSL 1 (10)  : Arsenal, Birmingham, Bristol, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester, Notts County, Reading, Sunderland, Yeovil

FA WSL 2 ( 10) : Aston Villa, Brighton, Doncaster, Durham, Everton, London Bees, Millwall, Oxford, Sheffield and Watford


Another very surprising point is the deadline and  timing result of the bids :

“The deadline for applications is 31 March 2017. The applications will then be reviewed and approved by The FA Women’s Football Board at their meeting in mid-May 2017.”

Teams have three months to prepare their bids, which is quite short, but they are all well used to the bidding process. To me the timing is all wrong again. The FA clearly does not mind having teams who know that they will be promoted or relegated in June 18 by June 2017. Does this make sense ?

We will have potentially the same issue that happened last time round, when Doncaster Belles were demoted after Matchday 1 and with 13 games to go. How can teams get motivated, if they know that they will go down at the end of the season.

It also means no relegation/promotion on the pitch actually, as all teams will come with a  clean slate in 2018/19. You could end up with teams earning promotion/relegation on the pitch, but not rewarded because they are not strong enough off the pitch.

Although this has been in place since 2011 with off the pitch criteria having priority on football results, it still feels a bit annoying to see sporting results not rewarded. But we have known it from the start, when all teams became franchises rather than football clubs.

One good news is the introduction of relegation from the FA WSL 2 to the FA WPL, something that should have happened years ago, but was not possible because of the League  different schedules.

“The alignment of the FA WSL season with the rest of the women’s football pyramid will mean that relegation from FA WSL 2 into the FA Women’s Premier League (FA WPL) will be introduced from the 2017-18 season.

The promotion position for the FA Women’s Premier League (FA WPL) play-off winners will be continued.”

” we know that there is a lot of excellent work taking place across the FA WPL and clubs at all levels and we will help those clubs, to be ready on and off the pitch should they win promotion. We believe that introducing relegation from the FA WSL to FA WPL will further increase the competitiveness and quality of the league.”


One of the newest and biggest point is licensing is only valid for one season, a huge change from the previous situations when they were given for 3 and 5 years.

“The licences will begin for the 2018-19 season and, for the first time, will not be fixed-term. Clubs will need to continue to meet licence criteria on an annual basis.”
Teams who fail to fulfill the criteria might end up demoted to the FA WPL or any lower division as there is no explanation given yet. You would expect teams to get dropped to regional level though ?
“Should a place in the FA WSL become available outside of promotion and relegation, it will be made available through an open application process”
This is the backdoor entry, if one of the 20 FA WSL team do not meet the criteria for FA WSL 1 &2. That way a team below the FA WSL with enough money and marketing might come in straightaway.  For example, one team might fail in their bid and by June 2017, the FA could open a licence to replace one or more teams.
 Then comes the financial side of the business with the FA  pledging to give more money to the clubs :

“Following consultation with clubs, the new licences will see current club development grants replaced by partnership funding agreements. These bespoke agreements will ensure funding is directed to both support the unique need of each individual club’s development along with the league as a whole.

FA WSL 1 clubs will have access to up to £92,500, increased from the current £70,000 allocation, while FA WSL 2 clubs will have access to up to £62,500, increased from £35,000.”

This is exactly the opposite of what they were proposing back in 2010 when the FA WSL licensing opened :

There some new medical criteria as well, nothing really dramatic in there, in order to improve the players fitness :

“As part of the new licence criteria, all FA WSL 1 clubs will be required to employ a full-time strength and conditioning coach, while FA WSL 2 clubs must implement daily strength and conditioning programmes for players.”


Let’s hope there are no big surprises come the licensing results are announced in May or we could see some very strange situations develop.

Published by Sylvain

women's football fan since 1998

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