So there it is, the FA have announced that the FA WSL1 has now become the rich boys/girls club and therefore decided demote to FA WSL 2 all the part-time semi-professional teams.
Now, this is NOT the fist time that the FA has demoted a side on non sporting merit, they did it back in 2014 when the Doncaster Belles were sent to the newly formed FA WSL2 to make way for Manchester City and its big money investment. It has to be said, Manchester City have been very succesful since and set the standard for many clubs in term of investment and facilities, but it still does not make it right for the Belles to have been sent down.
As we all know when sporting merit disappear and a close league appear, something gets lost somewhere although it is hard to define and quantify how to call it. Some would call it the football spirit, others might call it sporting integrity. With clubs being franchises since the FA WSL inception, you do wonder if the FA has always wanted the FA WSL1 to become long-term a typical US style league.
Back in 2011, when the League started, the clubs were given a three years tenure and protection to start-up the league. Promotion was only introduced with the FA WSL2 creation in 2014. At the time, the promotion was introduced on sporting merit, pending the usual financial and marketing investment possible. Three seasons ago promotion from the FA WPL to the FA WSL was also introduced on sporting merit, also pending the usual financial and marketing criteria and this year will see the first relegation from FA WSL2 to the FA WPL. This is the usual and natural functionality in the football pyramid.
So far in the FA WSL history no promotion has been rejected by the FA, be it to the FA WSL1 or the FA WSL2. There were no problems on financial ground and rightly so. But this sudden change will therefore halt all chances of success story like the one from Yeovil Town Ladies. They were a combination team for many years and went up all the way to FA WSL1 on a small budget with important values like their fans bill of rights and success on the pitch based on beautiful quality attacking football.
Now for the FA to close the door for that kind of team or any semi-professional team or even amateur, because they are not rich enough and don’t have enough facilities is really a kick in the teeth to the football traditional values. To me this is such a sad news really. Gone is the idea that a team can go up the leagues through hard work and football results. It originally happened when the FA WSL started in 2011 and the closed League system was not well received by many fans as it was a clear break from the way the football pyramid had been built and organized.
Let me be clear on one point, I think there is nothing wrong with the FA trying to have a full-time professional FA WSL1, this is what is needed at medium or long-term. But there are multiple ways to achieve this and natural organic natural growth for the teams in WSL1 would have made more sense to me.
We are now talking about a minimum investment needed for all the WSL1 teams, fine, it does make sense. Then what happens, if teams run out of cash because they cannot sustain the life style? Will the FA put in place more rigorous controls than the ones that allowed Notts County Ladies to fold? Introducing the single unique business model to FA WSL1 in which is women’s teams supported by a parent’s men club is a dangerous game, as history can give us countless examples of teams going under as soon as the men’s team money vanished.
I mean how many self sustainable women’s teams exist without the men’s team money ? Not many because they simply cannot go in the red every year and accumulate debts like the Sunderland men’s team can do. To close the door to those teams on the basis that they can’t find a rich owner or a rich parent club, is just wrong.
I was talking earlier about copying the close door US League style, but it was also mentioned among fans that the FA would also love the FA WSL to have the same brand recognition as the Premier League. What better way to have the big Premier League clubs in the FA WSL and therefore the constant lobbying of Manchester United to join the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in the FA WSL1.
Now that new FA WSL1 will be launched, the FA can say “sayonara” to the likes of Yeovil and Sunderland,( unless they come up with a pro team business plan), “you can go to the FA WSL2 as you are not rich enough “and then can promote anyone with bigger pockets from the FA WSL2 or even below providing that they can come with the right financial package.
You do wonder how many teams will be able to buy-in their way into that new FA WSL1 and how will the left-out teams will be redistributed. At the moment, there are 10 teams per WSL Division. I would be delighted to see at least 8 full-time teams with sufficient financial means. But as we have known for years, a league with only 8 teams is rubbish for scheduling, but that’s a problem for another day. I am genuinely curious to see how many teams will be able to sustain the investment level required by the FA. I am quite amazed the FA are looking at up to 14 teams overall to go full time professional.
So as the FA introduces another change to women’s football, we can say bye-bye for sure to the romantic idea of teams going through the leagues on sporting merit and hello to the big money boys and girls teams at the highest level. Let’s hope no elite team will collapse in the near future and those left behind also suffer no consequences from their demotion.
I put a twitter poll asking about the changes implementing by the FA and although it is an extremely small sample, which means statistically it does not really reflect the fans’ view overall, the results are quite clear
23% approval rate is quite low, 54% rejecting the idea and and 23% thinking it is not even a serious idea to do so.
Obviously the FA are looking at what can improve the England team and the overall women’s football level in the country and they know what they are doing with the Gameplan for growth, but sometimes you do wonder if they act on the best interest for the clubs.