From 2017 The FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL) will move to a new calendar; starting in autumn. The league will be played alongside the traditional
football calendar; from September until May each season. Next year, to bridge the gap between the seasons, there will be a one-off competition;
The FA WSL Spring Series, which will be played from February to May. Each team will play each other once as they compete for their division’s Spring
FA director of football participation and development Kelly Simmons said: “When we launched the FA WSL in 2011 it was the right decision to play it
as a summer league, which has been demonstrated by the competitive, exciting football, growing attendances and player development. “However, there
are still a number of issues holding the league back, such as fixture scheduling and ground availability. We want to keep building on the momentum
and growth of the league and we believe now is the right time to change the calendar”.
“The FA is committed to investing in women’s football and aims to double participation and attendances by 2020, as well as creating the right environment
for England to have the best chance of winning the 2023 World Cup and we believe that these changes will help us to further achieve these aims”.
“This is a really exciting time for the women’s game and we will work alongside our clubs to ensure we support them in the transition, across areas
such as contracts, marketing and fixtures to make sure that it proves a big success.”
This is all obviously huge news that has taken a few days to fully sink in and there are of course pros and cons to moving to a winter season.
The main beneficiaries should be the national team. At the moment the major tournaments take place during the middle of the season. With this new schedule
the tournaments will take place at the end of the season in line with men’s football. Germany and France are traditionally the two powerhouses
in European women’s football and they do run a September to May schedule. So this move would bring the Super league in line with our nearest neighbours.
To balance it out though the USA are the most successful woman’s national team on the planet and they run a summer season with a break in the season
for the World Cups and Olympic games.
This set up should also help sides in the UWCL. At the moment teams from England play the first two rounds after the start of the FAWSL season in the
autumn, before the tournament takes a break till the spring. This means that teams who make it this far have a good chance of facing a top class
team in the later stages in the spring with very little game time under their belts, or in their pre season, whereas their opponents are in midseason
form. It’s hard enough as it is taking on the likes of Lyon and Wolfsburg without having to play them as your first game of the season when they
have already been in action together for a few months.
When you look at these two footballing reasons the switch seems obvious, but there is more to it than that. There are other factors which show the
case for a switch isn’t necessarily a straight forward one nor is it just about what happens on the pitch.
One of the huge plus points of a summer season is that there isn’t any men’s club football to compete with it. Thus it’s easier to attract fans to
games and for media coverage. Over the past couple of years we have seen more FAWSL on television though BT Sports, and with no men’s action throughout
much of the season it has been easy to slot in the TV Schedule. This will obviously become much harder now as men’s football is on TV in one form
or another 7 days/nights a week during the season be it Premier league, Championship, League 1,2 or the National league. That’s without all the
European competitions and overseas leagues that are beamed into our homes. One potential solution would be for FAWSL games to kickoff at 6.00pm
in the evening. However this would be awful for fans who actually want to attend the game in person due to work commitments and travel issues,
it would make some games a complete for away fans. From a fans perspective and the need to gain more media coverage, it’s hard to see how this
One idea that has been circulated is the potential to do “Double headers” with men’s sides; this could be a huge boost for the women’s teams IF the
likes of Chelsea and Arsenal got involved in this. A women’s match at one of English football’s best known stadiums would be huge for the game
especially if it was played before the men’s game.
So all in all the pros should outweigh the cons though the move may be tough to begin with. However the move to winter will not affect the coverage
given to it by Sports International Magazine.