2011 will see the launch of the FA’s new Women’s Super League (WSL) and a complete restructure at the top tier of women’s football. However in the current economic climate, questions have been raised as to how suitable the timing is and how the FA will ensure that the new league is both successful and sustainable.
The FA WSL aims to build the profile of women’s football in England, increase spectatorship and reduce the number of talented players leaving the UK every year, in favour of the US Women’s Pro League. The FA WSL will be semi professional, televised through a broadcast partnership with ESPN and, unlike the current FA Women’s Premier League, played in the summer months, reducing postponed matches and improving pitch quality.
The FA has described the reform as ‘long overdue’ and warned that ‘waiting any longer can only be detrimental for footballers and the game in England’. But with current financial conditions, how can the FA ensure that the league is stable and avoid the obstacles that caused the first US Women’s Pro League to fold after just two seasons, due to financial trouble?
For the first two years the FA’s main focus will be building the profile of the league and key to this is the WSL’s partnership with sports broadcasting giant ESPN. By concentrating talent in eight clubs and introducing a salary cap the FA hopes to keep the game exciting and highly competitive, changing common perceptions that women’s football is not as exciting as men’s.
However in a statement released on The FA’s website the association was keen to explain how it was not simply relying on a broadcasting partnership.
“The league is not 100 per cent dependent on large cash contributions from a household name title sponsor or a broadcast partner. The FA is seeking to develop a much wider family of commercial partners who will support the development of the league over a number of years. The clubs are also aiming to develop partner and community programmes so that risk is spread and clubs and the league can build firm foundations.
“The goal is to work closely with clubs so that with The FA and their own partners, they can become small, sustainable businesses in their own right. The FA and the clubs will regularly review this.”
The initial spend of the US Women’s Pro League was huge. In contrast the FA is investing £3 million into the FA WSL and hopes that by keeping budgets “modest and flexible”, it can not only survive these difficult economic times, but also build firm foundations for a 'competitive, sustainable and commercially attractive league' for years to come.