As we enter the second half of the season, let’s have a look at the title race, Champions League places and promotion-relegation rules for the FA WSL and FAWC.
The team with the most points win the title. If teams are level on points, it goes to the goal difference and then to the most goals scored. If the teams are still level, the winner is the team with the most wins during the season. It then goes to head-to-head record and then to a playoff game(s).
Looking at the table, it is clearly a three horse race. Manchester City and Chelsea are the form teams at the moment, but Arsenal have a crucial game in hand that could change everything. A win in that game would give the Gunners a two-point lead over City and a five-point lead over Chelsea.
The top two teams from the FA WSL qualify for the Champions League. Should Chelsea win the 2019/20 tournament and not finish in the top two places in the League, England would have three entries in the 2020/21 edition.
We can add Birmingham to the teams already competing for the title, but they will need to have close to a perfect record in their last nine remaining games to finish in the top two.
Promotion & Relegation
It is important to note that the FA actually changed the terms for one of the regulations, one day after the initial press release last Summer. The FA published their new rules for promotion/relegation in the FA Handbook 2018/19 a couple of months ago.
Here are the latest rules:
The last-placed FA Women’s Super League Club will be relegated to The FA Women’s Championship.
Looking at the table above, Yeovil, Everton and Brighton are all fighting to stay up. Brighton are in a good position after recording their second win against Liverpool. Everton have a three-point advantage over Yeovil thanks to their three draws. Yeovil need to add at least one win to stay up, probably two, due to their goal difference.
It is not an easy feat at the bottom of the table, but Lee Burch and the players are working hard to get those results on a very limited budget.
The winners and runners-up in The FA Women’s Championship will be eligible for promotion to The FA Women’s Super League, provided that all license criteria can be met.
The last placed FA Women’s Championship Club will NOT be relegated to The FA Women’s National League Premier Division.*
From the 2019/20 Season there will be 1 up and 1 down between The FA Women’s Super League and The FA Women’s Championship and between The FA Women’s Championship and The FA Women’s National League.
*Amended following FA release, 2nd August.
What it means for the FA WSL is the top tier will have 12 teams in 2019/20, with two up and one down at the end of this season. This makes sense as an 11-team League is clearly unbalanced with one team getting a bye on each matchday.
For the Championship, the situation will be exactly the same with 12 teams taking part in the competition in 2019/20. The nine teams staying up, the team relegated from the FA WSL and the promoted teams from the FA WNL North and South.
It is a four-team race to finish in the promotion places. Manchester United are the clear favourite for the title, despite being currently in second place. Tottenham, newly promoted Charlton and Durham are all fighting to be the second team to go up alongside United.
Presumably, the only professional team in the division will finish top of the table, something that is far from being guaranteed at this stage. It would be an enormous surprise for United not to finish in the promotion places.
With no relegation this season to the FA WNL, Millwall can carry on working and building up for the future by giving all those young English players first-team football and experience that will be helpful next season.
Promotion from the third to the second tier
For one season only, the winners of The FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division and Southern Premier Division will be eligible for promotion to The FA Women’s Championship, subject to meeting licence criteria.
If the winner of either Northern Premier Division or Southern Premier Division is unable to meet criteria for promotion then the runner-up in that Division will be offered the opportunity for promotion, again subject to meeting licence criteria.
Should only one FA National League Premier Division Club be eligible for promotion then the last placed FA Women’s Championship Club will not be relegated.
The FA Women’s National League will hold a Championship Play-Off match to declare the overall FA Women’s National League winner.
In the Northern division, Blackburn, who missed out on promotion on and off the pitch in multiple seasons, are in the lead with a six-point gap over Sunderland and Huddersfield town.
In the Southern Division, it is a two-horse race between Chicester City and Coventry United. Chichester are two points ahead but Coventry have two games in hand.
Promotion won on the pitch not sufficient
In theory, everything will be fine and balanced by the beginning of next season. But there is a big IF in those rules.
Promotion is “subject to meeting licence criteria”. For the two teams promoted to the FA WSL, it means putting in place the budget and infrastructure to become a full-time professional team, from a current semi-pro set-up.
There is absolutely no guarantee that the top two teams in the Championship will have the budget and the means to get a professional set-up. It terms of budget, it probably means doubling it at least, something that cannot be achieved easily. There are so many things that need upgrading to become a full-time professional team.
There is one team that is ready to make the jump, Manchester United, who have entered senior women’s football at Championship level and not at the bottom of the pyramid like everybody else. They already have an excellent professional set-up under manager Casey Stoney.
But for the other ten teams, there is no guarantee they could achieve a professional status. Hence the following rules from the FA Handbook regarding promotion from the Championship to the FA WSL:
The Club in the bottom place in Tier 1 will be relegated to Tier 2. Subject to the ground grading criteria for Tier 1 and the other criterial for promotion, it will be replaced by the Clubs finishing in the top two positions in Tier 2.
Should a Club finishing in a promotion position in Tier 2 not wish to be considered for promotion or not meet the criteria for promotion, the Club finishing in third position in Tier 2 will, subject to the ground grading criteria and other criteria for promotion, be promoted to Tier 1 in place of the Club finishing in a promotion position.
If the Club finishing in third position does not meet the criteria for promotion or does not wish to be promoted, the Club finishing in the relegation position in Tier 1 will not be relegated.
The same problem will appear for the teams promoted from the FA Women National League to the Championship. Promotion is made pending financial and other criteria.
It is quite a jump from the third tier to the second tier in terms of money, hence four teams were dropped out of the former FA WSL2 and FAWSL to land in the third tier: Sunderland, Doncaster Belles, Watford and Oxford.
Women’s football in England, a sport where what happens off the pitch is as important, if not more, than what happens on the pitch. It’s a real shame.