At the Women’s Premier League (WPL) AGM on Sunday 22nd June, some very significant progress was made in further developing a strong and united women’s game at all levels.
The major announcement from the FA was to unite the fledgling Women’s Super League (WSL) with the newly reconstituted WPL.
The FA announced that, starting with the 2015/16 season, there would be one automatic promotion spot into the WSL via a two-leg play-off between the winners of the WPL South and North divisions. This will then be the case for the 2017 too which takes us to the end of the current WSL2 franchise license – at this point, clubs will take part in a further review of the system. As with any League structure, it is understood that reasonable governance and ground-grading criteria will need to be met too for promoted clubs.
Lewes Football Club acknowledges the great strides made by the FA in agreeing promotion from the WPL to the WSL – this is a move that has been brought forward from a review originally intended to happen in 2018. The biggest gain for the whole game is that WPL players now have their ambition back and can once again set their sights on playing at the highest level with their own clubs and the clubs themselves can start building a sustainable future in the knowledge that promotion into the WSL will be based on sporting merit.
Lewes FC also welcomes the retention of certain criteria for promoted clubs as we believe that standards are key to retaining and attracting players into the sport. The FA have stated that it will work very closely with all clubs to make sure that those clubs who have the ambition of playing in the WSL are ready to do so when the time comes.
The challenge now is to align the WSL and WPL seasons since the former is a summer league and the latter a winter league. The 2015/16 WPL League season will need to be brought forward to the beginning of August and some games move to mid-week to help facilitate that. Cup games need to be addressed by local FAs to help the clubs make the move should they win promotion.
But at the heart of the debate is how to ensure that there are appropriate pitches and facilities to support all 92 women’s clubs (WSL and WPL). Those clubs, like Lewes, who are unified with their parent club and play at the main home ground will be calling for the mid-season break to occur from mid May to mid July as stadium pitches are being rested and prepared between men’s seasons at that time. On a practical level, many potential football pitches are unavailable during mid-summer.
The new League Committee as voted in by the FAWPL clubs along with the 2 members of the FA Board have a lot of work to do to bring 72 clubs together to make the newly constituted FAWPL a strong, sustainable League which are fit for purpose both in the short and long term. The FA branding, administration and development monies allocated by the FA will give us some tools to enable this but clubs must do their bit too and get involved to help drive the agenda forward so that governance and the constitution is carried out to the highest level it can be.
Moving forward The FA also fully support the issue of FAWPL clubs having player contracts which will help both players and clubs build for the future.
Now that the FA have re-connected the two Leagues (WSL and WPL) the game can fully flourish and players once more have something to aim for. There will need to be more discussions about how to re-align the playing seasons in a way that ensures that the right playing facilities are available but clubs can start planning now to get the facilities in place in readiness. The majority of Clubs recognize that they have to do their bit and continue to improve their own standards and the way they operate – this can only be great for the game.
We understand that work is underway to progress the linking of the two winter and summer pyramids by the FA.
Lewes Football Club remains fully engaged in its efforts to help the FA in its work to link the two winter and summer pyramids and hopes that all clubs will ‘Be Inspired’ to continue building the national game at all levels.
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Jacquie Agnew is from Sussex in England and has been involved in Women’s Football since 2002. Jacquie was appointed to the Board of Directors at Lewes FC in October 2013, and is the Head of Football Operations for the Ladies section at the club. She has 12 years’ experience in Football Management as well as over 20 years’ experience in the corporate world. During her time as Ladies Manager she has won 7 trophies which she believes is down to hard work, mostly good decisions and bringing in committed people who want to do well for the club. She believes in Community ownership because it brings long term sustainability and a feeling of belonging for its fans. Being accessible to players, staff and directors is something that she values very highly as too is the sustainability and viability of the Women’s game in England from grass roots level to the elite.