In a week where news of a £300,000 a year offer was allegedly made to a player in the Premier League, a WSL1 team downgraded their team to part-time football to cut costs, the FA WSL might reach a turning point next season.
There is a fear among certain fans that the FA WSL is becoming the big three ‘boys’ club and everybody else will be left scrapping in a fight for fourth place. There is no doubt the big three teams (Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal) have been investing heavily and are pulling away from the rest of the pack.
And, at the same time, Sunderland have decided to cut costs and make their Ladies team part-time. They had a mixed-model, like Reading and Doncaster, with players with a job doing part-time football and some full time professionals. It comes as no surprise that the mixed-model teams ended up fighting to avoid relegation.
Put it this way, Sunderland Ladies will start a race with one arm tied behind their back in September 2017. You wonder if the club really wants to stay in WSL1 with that kind of attitude?
Let’s remind ourselves that the licencing reopens soon and Sunderland could end up demoted to WSL2 like Doncaster prior to the 2015 season.
Sunderland actually mentioned that they were going back to the FA WPL set-up they had before joining the FA WSL. Suffice to say, the FA might decide that Sunderland don’t even fill up the FA WSL 2 criteria.
In their news release about re-licensing, the FA mentioned they actually pushed the money up from £37,500 to £62,500 for FA WSL2 teams. They used to give £70,000 to FA WSL 1 sides in the last three seasons, so they have upped the ante.
The rule was clubs were supposed to put up as much as the FA per season. It means Sunderland, just to get a WSL 2 licence, can only afford a minimum £15k drop in their WSL1 annual budget in 2016.
It does not smell good.
The FA changing the salary cap regulations has opened the door to bigger budgets and created a huge gap between teams. I would not be surprised to see a one to ten ratio between the richest and poorest FA WSL1 teams.
I actually think the FA does not mind and hopes it will encourage other teams to invest even more to compete with the big teams.
I am far from convinced this is a good incentive.
Not every team will want to invest £500,000 to £2,000,000 at a loss to promote their Ladies team, sadly, despite clubs being awash with cash in the top flight in England thanks to the TV billions.
There is no doubt that Premier League teams that generate hundred of millions pounds can afford to do this but the standalone clubs, and those affiliated to lower divisions teams, cannot afford it at all.
By June, we will know who will get a licence and to which division.
And you never know – the FA might open pandora’s box and let in new teams.
Watch this space.