In April the new season of The FA Women’s Super League kicks off with the new WSL 2 league being part of it. To be part of the Super League clubs had the chance to bid to become members of it and those successful would get a 4 year license. In essence the league was becoming a “Franchise”.
There was a few eye brows raised when The FA announced what clubs would be part of it, whilst disappointed to clubs like us (Gillingham) as the south got well and truly overlooked with Brighton, Charlton, West Ham, Portsmouth, Colchester all failing whilst Millwall Lionesses became the only new southern club to join the elite.
More surprises was that Manchester City got fast tracked up to WSL 1, whilst one of the most famous women’s clubs around Doncaster Belles got relegated before even kicking a ball last season, as they was the club to make way for Manchester City.
Lincoln City made an even bigger surprise by deciding to change their name and move away from Lincoln to become Notts County.
But the biggest surprise of all was that a new club Durham was able to leap the whole pyramid of women’s football and get a license in WSL 2.
Each club in WSL 2 gets around £30,000 per season over the next 4 seasons to help the club grow, and they now have the luxury to also know that even if they finish the bottom of the league, they will not get relegated but can look forward to their cheque from The FA to have another go the following season.
With the inception of The Women’s Super League, The FA then decided to change the structure of the Pyramid and decided to palm The FA ‘ Premier League (North & South) into the paths of a new committee and league structure as the proposals was to merge with the four combination clubs in the next tier below.
Although originally clubs voted for this, it was not until later clubs realised what was actually going to happen.
The FA was going to support the new league by supplementing £90,000, this is between the 72 clubs that would fall under this new league.
Also The FA was removing its name from the league and calling it Women’s Championship
But the real blow was that no clubs would be promoted to the WSL
Gillingham Ladies Chairman explained “In theory 6 years of hard work, putting the club together and moving up the pyramid would become fruitless, no matter if we or any club was to win the league we would never get the chance to play against the top teams which would be deserved on merit”
The WSL licenses last for four years, and then clubs could possibly re-bid to join the WSL, Martin further explains the trouble with that “I very much doubt The FA would extend the WSL to 3 leagues, so you would be bidding for a possible expansion of 2 to 4 clubs, you also got the situation that in that time WSL 2 clubs would have received around £120,000 from The FA to help them as clubs to progress. It’s just impossible to do that”
With all this now clear to the clubs, they decided to join forces and a campaign was started “Save Our Women’s Premier League”, and they got enough clubs to table a motion to call an SGM (Special General Meeting)
The meeting was held on Saturday at the County offices in Leicester, Gillingham Chairman Martin Andrews attended and the ladies Kent FA divisional officer Greg Petts also attended to support the club and offer advise and to help protect the future of football for all teams in Kent.
As effectively what was going to happen would ripple all the way down to grass-roots football, as it would mean clubs like Herne Bay & Maidstone United who are showing ambition would not be able to on merit reach their way to the top.
If you was to compare it to the men’s game, it would be like saying to teams like Hull, Bolton, Swindon that you would never be allowed to play in the Premier League.
But it would also mean that players like Ricky Lambert & Grant Holt would never progress to play in the Premier League.
Why should James Marrs be denied the chance to manage against the top teams if he won the title with Gillingham Ladies.
Why should our players, Jay Blackie, Danielle Carlton and long-standing skipper Vicky Ashton-Jones be denied the chance to play week in week out against the top teams.
The meeting lasted for around 2 1/2 hours, and The FA sent along some very high representatives, and at times the meeting got heated and emotional as clubs was fighting for there rights and there dreams.
On the back of the meeting it ended very productive, and credit to The FA who back tracked on some ideas, and promised to work with the clubs.
The main points was:-
1) The league would keep The FA’s name
2) The league would continue to be known as the Premiership, whilst the combination clubs would be given a much better title and be known as “Championship” Clubs. This aligning to the mens Premiership, with the Championship being the next league down
3) The FA would continue to administor the league, they would be doing the fixtures, results, match official appointments for both the Premiership & Championship. But a new committee would be formed to which club officials may apply.
4) They will look into how they can realign the Women’s pyramid so that clubs can gain promotion
Martin explained “this shows that when clubs join together the can be powerful to take on the big establishments, we owe the organisers of the “Save our Women’s Premier League” a lot of thanks, as women’s football would of gone backwards, to those outside The Premier League, they wont realise what could of happen if this had continued. Hopefully with hard work peoples dreams can still happen. The FA still have a lot of work to do to find a solution to promotion up to the Super League as one is a Summer League and we are a winter league, but at least they will look into it.
I would also like to place on record my thanks to our County divisional Rep Greg Petts who took time out to attend the meeting.”