By Paul Nicholson
September 27 – The English FA, recovering from the scandals surrounding the sacking of women’s national team coach Mark Sampson, has positive news for the women’s game with the announcement of a restructuring and expansion of the elite women’s game in the country.
From the start of the 2018-19 season the top division of the Women’s Super League (which kicked off its 2017-18 last weekend) could be increased from the current 10 teams to 14. All players required to be full time professionals.
The second tier will also be expanded, from 10 to a maximum of 12 teams, with players to be signed on a semi-professional basis.
The number of teams admitted to the leagues will depend on them meeting new licensing criteria that include revenue generation criteria.
The FA said on its website: “The restructure is central to The FA’s ‘Gameplan for Growth’ strategy which outlined the approach to transform the future of the women’s game via three core goals: to double participation, double the fanbase and for England teams to achieve consistent success on the world stage.”
The next level down will see tiers three and four played in a regional structure with promotion and relegation throughout the whole pyramid.
Katie Brazier, The FA’s head of women’s leagues and competitions, said: “This announcement is a landmark moment for women’s football in this country.
“The changes will continue our journey to transform key elements of the women’s game.”
Developing a stronger commercial model for the women’s game is seen as going hand-in-hand with the bolstering of the elite levels to create sustainable high performance from England’s womens teams.
Clubs will be required to submit marketing and commercial plans outlining how they will increase attendances and revenues.
The changes will be enshrined in new club licensing criteria. Clubs in the top two tiers have been invited to apply for new licenses with those aiming for the top division required to sign up to a minimum of 16 hours of daytime contact per week (plus matches), increasing to 20 hours by the 2021-22 season.
Also key to the new licenses will be the establishment of a new ‘Academy’ structure and pathway for players in the 17-20 age group.
The clubs and the FA will now start a consultation process that will include the size of divisions, player contracts and transfer windows.
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