The FA has told struggling Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship teams there is no financial support available and that it remains determined to wait out the pandemic and complete the 2019-20 seasons of the top two tiers.
The FA voided the season for all tiers of the women’s pyramid from the National League down (tiers three to seven and grassroots football) on Thursday. The move drew criticism from a number of clubs, including Barnsley, who said they were not consulted until shortly before the plans were made public and urged the FA to “immediately reconsider” the decision.
As a part of that announcement the FA said it “remains in consultation with the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship Board and clubs regarding the most appropriate way to complete the current season; including the Barclays FA Women’s Super League Academy”.
In a conference call on Friday, those discussions resulted in several options being put to clubs: teams return to training in three weeks; the return to training is pushed back by a few weeks each time, with resumption only when it is deemed safe to do so; and, if the other possibilities prove unfeasible, that both seasons are voided.
The FA was notified of clubs’ estimated losses for March, April and May during the week and there was a sense of disbelief from some at the lack of financial support alongside the extension to the season stretching into the foreseeable future. However, there is also a feeling that the governing body may have viewed the losses as too big a gap to plug and the FA is now trying to protect the existing budget for the women’s game.
Clubs must prepare to keep paying players until a decision is reached on continuation or cancellation. With the tight finances of teams not backed by a Premier League club and the season stretching far beyond what the other clubs have budgeted for, it is increasingly likely some clubs will go to the wall – a possibility hinted at in advance of the meeting when the FA told clubs they may need to reopen licensing to maintain numbers in the Women’s Championship.
Although the top two women’s tiers will not lose anything like the sums the men’s equivalents will, the sporting implications are similar. The Women’s Super League title was far from a foregone conclusion when play was suspended on 13 March: Manchester City, who have a one-point lead over Chelsea and are four better off than Arsenal, have played a game more than that pair and only the first and second-placed sides qualify for the Champions League.
While Liverpool’s men’s team have an almost unassailable lead at the top of the Premier League, things are a lot less rosy for the women. They languish at the bottom of the WSL table with one win, a point behind Birmingham but having played a game more.
In the Championship, Aston Villa are six points clear of Sheffield United at the top. At the bottom, Charlton, who have played 12 games, are two points behind Coventry United, who have played 14, and Lewes, who have played 12.