The FA WSL has now reached a crossroads as season five has shown that it was slowly going the same way as men’s football.
This is a trend not welcomed by the majority of the fans and coaches around the country.
The FA Women Super League started in 2011 as a replacement for the old Women’s Premier League that was not competitive enough with 12 teams. Eight teams were selected as “franchises” – Arsenal, Birmingham, Bristol, Chelsea, Doncaster, Everton, Lincoln and Liverpool.
The first two seasons (2011 and 2012) were very similar to the previous WPL seasons with Arsenal retaining the title and the eight teams carrying on as semi-professional sides training twice a week.
The following two seasons (2013 and 2014) saw Liverpool take over the crown as the American owners decided to invest in the Ladies side and get them to train daily. That competitive advantage saw them leapfrog every other club and go from bottom of the table in 2012 to champions in 2013.
They did just enough to retain the title in 2014, with Chelsea and Birmingham also fighting for the crown, on final day. 2014 also saw the creation of the FA WSL 2 where Doncaster were sent after match day 1 in the 2013 season, while Manchester City were selected as FA WSL 1 franchise and Lincoln lost their team as the franchise moved to Nottingham.
2015 has seen Manchester City invest heavily and their team are now full time professionals. They also gave them the same facilities as the men’s youth side including sharing the Academy Stadium. Chelsea also raised their investment level and were rewarded with a League title.
By a strange coincidence, the FA WSL 2015 top three ended up exactly the same as the men’s Premier League 2014/15 top three: 1. Chelsea 2. Manchester City 3.Arsenal
As we all know, men’s football success is strongly linked to revenues and money spent and it seems that the FA WSL is going the same way. This is good for the development of the game at elite level as seen by the England success at the World Cup coming back with a Bronze medal.
Some FA WSL teams chasing the top two are now preparing to invest more in their Ladies to catch up and be competitive rather than also-rans only. Arsenal are stepping up their investment with new, quality players coming in and a new ground dedicated to the Ladies announced at the recent AGM.
Promoted sides like Reading and Doncaster are coming to the top flight with full guns blazing, having both decided to award more than a dozen pro contracts to their players. Sunderland, who got promoted last season, went full-time and were rewarded with a fourth place.
Notts County already have a good squad and comfortable budget and should therefore be competitive if they can reach their potential, while there are question marks about Liverpool’s willingness to match the big teams’ investment. They were ahead of the pack two seasons ago and are now lagging behind. This is how quickly the landscape is changing in the FA WSL.
So the FA WSL is definitely at a crossroads, does the FA want it to become like the Premier League with a business like model that has replaced the football model?
There are rumours going round that the Premier League actually want to buy the FA WSL and while it might a good thing in terms of the League organisation as it is managed in a shambolic way at the moment, it might turn women’s football into the same circus as men’s football.
Arsenal week-end’s results:
First team: no game as it is the international break
The Arsenal Ladies development team won 4-0 away to Watford Ladies development.
The team was: Rogers, Kiely, Parker, Wubben-Moy, Driscoll, Brunton-Wilde, Fyfe, Clarke Dean, Kelly, Devlin
Subs used: Cowley, Ritchie-Williams and Stojko-Down
Unused Subs: Shona Allen and Georgia Allen
The Arsenal Ladies development team are top of the League with 12 points, level with Reading and Chelsea but with a better goal difference. It is clear that those three teams will fight for the title this season.
The Arsenal Ladies Centre of Excellence u17 defeated Brighton u17 8-0 with a hat-trick from Captain Laura Hooper
The u17 side are top of the London and South-East League with 18 pts in six games, six points clear of Chelsea having played an extra game more than the Blues.