There have been two main post EURO 2017 stories in English women’s football. The first is the Sampson v Aluko/Spence racism scandal (mentioned in previous post “Women’s football needs a Kerry Packer. Unfortunately it won’t get one”). The second story is the FA’s plans for the FA Women’s Super League (WSL) which are causing a lot of controversy and to my mind are unfair and against the principles which should apply to football.
From next season (2018-19) the FA want WSL 1 to be a full time professional League of up to 14 clubs. The catch is that the clubs that make up this League will not be decided by success on field (which happens even in money mad men’s football) but by a licensing system where in the words of the FA “Sporting performance will not be considered in the selection process”. That is a total disgrace.
It means that the women’s teams of Premier League teams that are not currently in WSL 1 (for example Brighton, Tottenham and West Ham) could leapfrog their way into WSL 1 not by on field performance but because of financial muscle – just as Manchester City were parachuted into WSL 1 in 2014 instead of poor Doncaster Belles purely because of money. That is surely unacceptable.
Even worse existing WSL 1 teams who earned their WSL 1 places wholly on merit but are part time will lose their place if they are unwilling or unable to go full time. Two examples are are Yeovil Town who have had to use Crowd Funding to raise the £350000 in order to bid for a WSL 1 licence for next season. But if successful what will they do the next season? And the next? and Sunderland – whose team reverted to part time status this year – who have decided to apply for the part time WSL 2. And will the other WSL 1 clubs who are not affiliated to a men’s Premier League team (Birmingham City, Bristol City and Reading) be able (or willing) to spend the money needed. £350000 is chicken feed for a Premier League team. It is not chicken feed for the likes of Yeovil.
Another question is will all the current WSL 1 players even want to go full time professional? A 28 year old with a secure job might not want to go full time professional for a few years for lesser money than her other job pays. So this hypothetical player might choose to drop down a level to the part time WSL 2 even though she is good enough for WSL 1. That will hardly help the standard of any new League.
The FA’s plans are ill thought out. Why change the after the season has started? Why the rush? Couldn’t they wait until 2019-20 to start? Why make the whole League full time professional anyway? No other country in Europe currently has a full time professional women’s League. Denmark, France, Germany, Holland and Sweden have all had success at elite level without a full time professional women’s League. There is no reason why England cannot.
Another thing is that the FA want a full time professional League but don’t want to pay for it. In effect they are passing the buck. If the FA want a full time professional women’s League why don’t they pay for it? Why don’t they say “We will pay the top nine teams in this season’s WSL 1 plus the WSL 2 champions £500000 each to go full time professional”. At £500000 a club that comes to a total of £5 million. For the FA £5 million a year is peanuts. It would also save the women’s teams from the whims of their male parent club. For example Notts County folded earlier this year because the male club decided to stop funding them. If the FA had funded them that might not have happened.
The FA’s plan is ill thought out and unfair. Have they heard of “Walk before you run?”. At this moment the women’s game is not ready for a full time professional League. If a full time professional women’s League does not exist in more progressive countries like Norway and Sweden why do the FA think it would work in sexist England? It won’t. The FA needs either to be patient and wait for the women’s game to grow naturally or put its money where its mouth is and pay for it themselves. If the FA want a full time professional women’s League they should pay for it.