Sheffield FC Ladies have withdrawn from the newly named FA Women’s Championship citing ‘money’ as the main reason behind their decision.
The FA’s drive towards the professionalisation of women’s football has resulted in heavy collateral damage and a number of teams have been hurt by the process.
Many fans are angry at the FA for creating an unnecessary mess. A Facebook group containing rebellious fans has now reached 700+ members.
Notts County, Sunderland, Oxford, Watford, and now Sheffield, have fallen on the sword of the god named money that now rules women football. We should also not forget that Millwall were close to folding before crowdfunding rescued them last season.
The FA move the goalposts so often, driving towards exponentially increasing budgets, while the teams’ revenue streams do not really grow.
In short, it is a recipe for disaster.
If you don’t have a rich private backer or a men’s team with large pockets, you have no chance of competing in the FA WSL, or even the FA Women’s Championship.
You certainly have to wonder if the FA’s aim is to have a Women League that mirrors the men’s Premier League, leaving smaller teams to fight in Tier 2 and 3.
It is quite obvious that the FA WSL is heading in that direction, and quickly.
It is also important to note that the knock-on effect of forcing FA WSL teams to have a professional team with a high minimum budget has delivered the arms race to Tier 2 as well.
The FA Women’s Championship hosts the super rich, and newly formed, Manchester United Women who will blow everyone out of the water with their recruitment.
They will have a squad that is good enough to be in the top half of the FA WSL.
So, Championship teams will have to spend more and more in a semi-professional league to simply catch up with United who are only just getting started.
That’s why Sheffield FC have thrown in the towel as they know that that kind of spending is not sustainable for them, like many others.
If we recap the casualties in the last two years:
Notts County Ladies
The new owner pulled the plug prior to the Spring Series back in 2016 saying he could not afford the £500k budget while only bringing in £28k in revenue. If you know the La Fontaine fables, the frog and the ox comes to mind. Their previous owner thought he could compete with the big teams and the new owner decided to cut funds just a couple of days before the Spring Series was about to begin.
Demoted two divisions to the Women’s National League. They did not submit a bid in the first phase of licensing last year. They then put in a bid for the second tier that was not accepted. They have appealed, but no one knows what the result will be and with the demotion of Sheffield FC you never know what will happen.
Oxford and Watford
Both demoted one division to the new Women’s National League through the same process. They did not apply in the first phase, but applied in the second phase of bidding but were not successful.
Withdrew from the FA Women’s Championship because “The financial commitments necessary to compete at this level are proving now too onerous.”
They could be demoted by two divisions to the fourth tier of the pyramid.
It is such a shame that a team that won promotion on the pitch, and finished twice in fifth place, has been priced out by the latest FA reform.
It will be interesting to see the FA’s decision regarding a potential replacement as apparently Sunderland, Blackburn and maybe Crystal Palace have appealed their bid rejection.
Will the FA select one of those teams to replace Sheffield FC Ladies?
At the moment, the FA WSL has 11 teams and the FA Women’s Championship also has eleven teams. It would make more sense to have both divisions with twelve, if they can find teams rich enough to spend the rumored £400k required for FA WSL sides.
We know that the FA was originally targeting the FIFA WWC 2023 as a winnable tournament. The fact that the Lionesses moved up to second place in the FIFA rankings means the 2019 World Cup next year is now a target and a fully professional league should help England in that respect.
But the collateral damage for clubs left out is a really steep price to pay for all the players, coaching staff and fans of the teams suffering and the lack of proper acknowledgment from the FA about those problems is quite telling.