The Football Association’s Women’s Super League: Over-ambitious?

Kelly Smith

It looks like the Women’s Super League in England, a new semi-professional venture (not fully professional, as some are saying), will finally launch in 2011 and the application process is now open for clubs who wish to participate.

The plan is for eight teams to compete in a summer season from March to October, thus minimising schedule conflicts with the men’s game but also going up directly against Women’s Professional Soccer in the United States.

The Football Association broke its pledge to launch a new Women’s Super League in 2010 earlier this year, citing difficult economic times. The furor over that, and continued criticism’s of the FA’s poor record on diversity from the government and pressure groups, seems finally to have spurred an organisation with a historically terrible record on promoting the women’s game (and in fact, doing the exact opposite by banning it from Football League grounds for fifty years) to finally fund a step forward.

Unfortunately, every single document listed on the F.A.’s Women’s Super League application page — all of which look like interesting reading from their titles — are not actually linked properly, so it’s impossible to read all of the details. Oops.

But the site does offer one interesting and important detail,  stating that “Clubs who successfully apply for membership to The FA Women’s Super League will be able to apply for funding from The FA to support club development activities in specified areas thereby promoting sustainability. A maximum of £70,000 per season per club will be available.”

This is a welcome commitment, given the league is in a highly competitive market for the best British talent with much of it playing overseas in Women’s Professional Soccer right now.

However, according to the Guardian, that development fund is only available if clubs make a considerable financial commitment to pay £20-30,000 to top players.

It’s a little worrying that even the league’s project leader, Sally Horrox, thinks that “we might be scaring a few of the clubs off. But we are raising the bar for the women’s game and we are serious about player payments and other minimum requirements.”

Sunderland chairman Maurice Alderson added that “We can’t afford to pay our players expenses, let alone £30,000 a year. We run our whole club on less than half of that. I love the concept of the league and I’d love be part of it, but it’s going to be very difficult.”


Alderson’s comments sum up the general excitement and concern about the new venture. It’s certainly about time the FA followed through on their commitment and debt to women’s football, and they should be praised for making funding available. The women’s game has grown enormously at the grassroots in England in the past couple of decades and the profile of the national team reached an unprecedented high as Kelly Smith and Karen Carney led the team to the UEFA championship final this year.

But the gap between the English game and the European elite was still evident as Germany easily dismissed England, with an obviously greater depth and class of athlete available to them, all of whom play in the Women’s Football Bundesliga — a twelve team league set-up way back in 1990 by the German Football Association, who obviously had far more forethought than their English counterpart.

The Super League might be the way to remedy that. But will English clubs be able to raise enough investment to match the ambition of the league, or will this prove to be another false dawn?

11 thoughts on “The Football Association’s Women’s Super League: Over-ambitious?

  1. A. Ruiz

    Wow, that quote from Sunderland is pathetic. I bet the reserve leftback for the mens senior team makes that much in a week.

  2. Macdonald Amy

    It’s great to see that women will have their own football league. Women want their equal rights to men and it’s great to see that things are moving forward.
    I agree with Mr. Maurice Alderson, it is going to be difficult but it will get there.

  3. NickA

    As I understand it, there’s little to stop interested parties putting together franchises from scratch here – which would be a big problem for existing clubs, even the biggest names. This was certainly a big concern of Vic Akers’ last year and, from the little wording I’ve seen, doesn’t really seem to have changed. Even the biggest clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton etc, all very reliant on the goodwill of their club boards – might find themselves on the back foot if a set of attractively-named entities representing a decent geographical spread of cities arises. That’s very much a worst-case scenario for the existing bunch, but it suggests that the FA aren’t necessarily going to pander to history or sentiment here.

  4. Tom Dunmore Post author

    NickA — that’s a very interesting point I hadn’t thought about. It would be great to read more of the details from the F.A. to see what it says about new clubs forming and joining, but unfortunately, another working day later and all the links to the information on their site remains broken.

  5. NickA

    The problem is that, if one’s being ultra-pragmatic, creating a set of new, self-reliant clubs looks the most/only realistic way of keeping a new Super League afloat. Too much of the FA’s thinking seems to be occurring on the fly, even now. And only Arsenal and Chelsea (maybe with honourable shouts to one or two others like Doncaster RB) really seem to have strong enough support from their men’s clubs to deal with the demands that the new setup will place on them. And even then, there’s no guarantee their boards will fancy it. This has a long way to run, anyway…

  6. Tom Dunmore Post author

    I think there’s a lot to that. We’ve seen on a number of occasions that women’s teams are the first to go when reliant on men’s clubs in England. WPS’ model is interesting, with a mix of clubs with varied relationships to MLS teams but with a beneficial marketing partnership with MLS’ marketing arm, SUM.

    Does anyone know how it works in Germany?

    As you say, it’s not at all clear the FA has a far-sighted vision for how this will work at all in England.

  7. noel butler

    w-h-o c-a-r-e-s….
    not one bloke i know would watch, sort of like the WNBA…you might be a basketball fan but even thye hardcore ones dont care…

    besides, those leagues will promote heavily towards either a family affair, mother-daughters or to lesbians who wouldnt mind watching 22 hefty lasses sweat and strain, they dont want the 30-40 yr old
    male farters and burpers.

    be pc on your own time and dime, my time for leisure and entertainment isnt infinite and it doenst include womens sports that arent beach volleyballl, indoor volleyball, diving and gymnastics.

  8. Eurycantha


    The plan is for eight teams to compete in a summer season from March to October, thus minimising schedule conflicts with the men’s game but also going up directly against Women’s Professional Soccer in the United States.

    1) Doesnot starting in March (2011) will conflict with the men’s game, just in a period (March – May) when the
    most important decisions (championship, CL-spots, relegation, play-offs) will occur?

    2) Has the FA taken into account that the Women’s World Cup in Germany will start on June 26th with the
    opening match in Berlin and will last till July 17th?

    3) Has the FA taken into account that before starting the WWC players need some weeks of preparation
    (lets say from mid May 2011)

    4) I am awaiting the German schedule for the 2010/2011 season, but it is not difficult to foresee that
    the German Women Bundesliga will start as early as possible in August 2010 to finish preferably at the
    end of April 2011, giving the German squad players a short break of two weeks holidays before
    starting the 6 weeks preparation for the WWC.

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