Clubs alarmed by restructuring plans

FA plans to re-structure the women’s game, including making the top level fully professional, will directly affect the region’s top two clubs, who are already competing in SuperLeague One – Bristol City and Yeovil Town.

It is common knowledge that women’s football survives at the behest of the men’s game, as there is virtually no club in the country which owns its own ground. So why the rush to make the game at the top level fully professional?

Under the current system, England are already the third ranked country in the world, so, again, something must be going right.

But the FA still wants change and their announcement has caused alarm throughout the existing women’s ranks, especially for clubs with ambitions to progress to the top.

Indeed, the FA appear to be trying to bulldoze through a system that could allow a club to join at the top level merely through financial reasons.

The plan for 2018-19 is for a top flight of 14 fully-professional teams, together with a new semi-professional league at tier two level, not exceeding 12 teams.

Apart from paying full-time professionals, a women’s club will also be expected to pay for a full-time manager, coaches and backroom staff. It means that to compete at the highest level, a club won’t find much change from a million pounds.

But how can women’s clubs generate that type of income when gates rarely reach 2,000?

Women’s football has grown considerably over the years but it still cannot compete without the help of the men’s game.

Katie Brazier, the FA’s head of women’s leagues and competitions, said: “This announcement is a landmark moment for women’s football in this country. The changes will continue our journey to transform key elements of the women’s game.

“Providing an elite performance environment will produce more and better players; increase the interest and excitement via a more competitive league; attract a greater number of fans and, in turn, deliver improved commercial viability for clubs and the leagues.”

Yeovil Town have shown just how a small club can reach the top level through hard work and meticulous planning, both on and off the field, and by becoming part of the community.

But the FA’s plans have alarmed the club. In a detailed statement of what they have so far achieved and how, Yeovil said: “We have the structure, facilities and ambition to become a full-time professional club, given time, but we currently do not have the financial support to do this.

“We do not have the budget to allow our players and coaches to become full-time athletes, unless further investment comes our way soon. We have set out our plans to the FA, but it seems that there is a clear desire by them to impose off- field financial criteria immediately as a condition of WSL membership.

“The deadline to submit our application for a new WSL licence to the FA is November 10 with a decision to be made on December 13.

“Our club has worked extremely hard over many years to get to the top flight and we wish that journey to continue.”
Bristol City have yet to respond to the FA’s blueprint.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.