FA unveils new make-up of women’s club football

Brighton & Hove Albion will join the Women’s Super League 1, the top tier of club football in England, next year after its license application was accepted by the Football Association (FA).

An initial 10 teams have been handed licences to compete in WSL 1 during the 2018-19 season, with Brighton to join current top-tier outfits Arsenal, Birmingham City, Bristol City, Chelsea Ladies, Everton Ladies, Liverpool Ladies, Manchester City, Reading Women and Yeovil Town.

Current WSL 1 side Sunderland did not apply for a license but the team is set to submit a collaborative bid in March, should slots become available.

The FA in September unveiled reform plans for the women’s club game that will see the WSL 1 expanded to a top tier of up to 14 teams with full-time professional players. Clubs will be able to bid for the four remaining spots before March next year.

Tier Two of the WSL will feature Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies and Tottenham Hotspur. Up to five additional spots will be made available in the second tier.

Watford and Oxford United currently play in the WSL 2 but opted not to apply for a spot in either league. The two clubs will however reconsider a bid before March.

Clubs seeking a WSL 1 license will need to provide a minimum of 16 contact hours per week for players, rising to 20 hours per week by 2020-21. They must also provide a minimum level of financial investment, while meeting Financial Fair Play regulations and a squad cap. A youth academy must also be provided, while rules restricting the number of non-English qualified players in squads must be adhered to.

Yeovil, which is currently bottom of WSL 1, had faced the threat of losing its top-tier license amid financial difficulties, but the club was successful in its application. The FA said that each club was offered a place in the league for which they applied.

The WSL is currently made up of 20 clubs split equally into two tiers.