The FA has, unsurprisingly, announced that the Women’s football season in Tier 1 and 2 is now over, so what happens next?

Arsenal celebrate against Liverpool in the season opener. Their 5-0 win put Arsenal top and Liverpool bottom of the FAWSL after one game (image via Arsenal.com)

They had previously deemed null and void the League at Tier 3 and below.

The FA said: “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FA Women’s Super League & Women’s Championship Board has been in regular consultation with clubs and key stakeholders from across both leagues to identify the most suitable and appropriate way to conclude the 2019-20 season, and to give clubs and players the clarity and support they need at this time.

“Following overwhelming feedback from the clubs, the decision to bring an end to the 2019-20 season was made in the best interest of the women’s game. This will also enable clubs, the FA Women’s Super League & Women’s Championship Board and the FA to plan, prepare and focus on next season when football returns for the 2020-21 campaign.”

It took the FA a long time to end the season as they voided Tier 3 and below on 26 March and then finished the top 2 tiers two months later.

Obviously, as the FA WSL and FA WC include professional footballers, the FA tried to restart the competition. But it is obvious that health, safety and finances prevented that from happening.

Curiously enough, the decision on final league positions, promotion, relegation and Champions League places has not yet been made.

“Following full and thorough consultation with the clubs, the FA Women’s Super League & Women’s Championship Board has discussed various recommendations which will be sent to the FA Board to determine the most appropriate sporting outcome for the 2019-20 season.

“This will include identifying the entries for the 2020-21 UEFA Women’s Champions League, which would be based on sporting merit from the 2019-20 Barclays FA Women’s Super League season.”

One of the options is to deem the league null and void and make it consistent for all tiers in women’s football. That would mean no promotion/relegation and a big problem of how to nominate two English teams for the Women Champions League as the UEFA guidelines are clear on sporting merits being the deciding factor.

“UEFA reserves the right to refuse or evaluate the admission to any club proposed by a National Association from a prematurely terminated domestic competition in particular where:

• The domestic competitions have not been prematurely terminated based on the reasons given in these UEFA guidelines or on the basis of any other legitimate public health reasons;

• The clubs were selected pursuant to a procedure which was not objective, transparent and non-discriminatory so that the selected clubs could not be considered as having been qualified on sporting merit;

• There is a public perception of unfairness in the qualification of the club.”

So, you would not expect the FA to select this option or they would risk UEFA rejecting the two clubs selected to enter the competition as happened in the past when the original entry selected by the FA was not approved by the governing body.

The remaining options are Points Per Game and Weighted Points Per Game.

Suzy Wrack all the calculations for us and it is quite clear:

Chelsea should be champions, Manchester City runner-ups, Arsenal third, Liverpool finishing bottom of the league and relegated to the Championship. Aston Villa would be promoted to the FA WSL should the PPG system be used to decide the League.

It is quite interesting to note that for the first time since 2014, the Championship, previously known as FA WSL2, had introduced a relegation to Tier the FA Women’s National League. But with the Tier 3 and below null and void, the two group winners in the FA WNL are definitely not going up.

So, in the event of the one up, one down format between the FA WSL and FA WC, the Championship would still have eleven teams next season. Not a great format, not enough games and a team with a bye every week. Obviously, the group stage of the Conti Cup provides three of four extra games, but they are played midweeks sometimes as well.

If PPG is applied, we should see the FA WSL next season with 12 sides and the FA WC with 11 sides which is not great. I have seen some suggestions of Villa coming up but Liverpool not being relegated, but that would mean the FA WSL with 13 teams and FA WC with only 10 and that means 18 League games in a whole season.

There is also a question mark over teams folding.

There is no doubt that clubs’ finances have been impacted and there is no guarantee that all clubs will survive, especially those who are attached to struggling parent sides. Should any team fold, and hopefully it will not happen, I can see the FA reopening licensing in Tier 1 (professional football) and/or Tier 2 (semi-professional).

There were a few teams in Tier 2 that were rumoured to be more or less training on daily basis already, so fulfilling the criteria of Tier 1 on the football side. Can they follow it up in terms of budget and facilities?

If the FA WSL is short of teams, it would make sense to promote those who fit the criteria as we know the original FA aim was to get to 14 teams in the FA WSL.

The same thing could happen in the Championship. Teams from Tier 3 and 4 can certainly make the jump in terms of football training and it would be a question, again, of facilities and budget. You could also have an FA WSL side deciding to stop being full-time and reverting back to being semi-professional and dropping one division.

Sporting merit is a notion that has vanished since the FA WSL creation back in 2011 as it has become licensing criteria first. We have seen countless promotion and relegations since that were not based on what happens on the pitch.

The FA board will decide on all matters, hopefully as soon as possible, but it will only kick-off a long summer of changes and there is no guarantee that the teams that start the 2020/21 season will be the same as the one that have just finished this season.