|Founded||22 March 2010|
|Number of teams||9 (WSL 1)
10 (WSL 2)
|Level on pyramid||1 (WSL 1)
2 (WSL 2)
|Domestic cup(s)||FA Women's Cup
FA WSL Cup
|International cup(s)||Champions League|
|Current champions||Manchester City (1st title)
|Most championships||Arsenal (2 titles)
Liverpool (2 titles)
|TV partners||BT Sport|
|2016 FA WSL|
The Football Association Women's Super League (FA WSL) is the highest league of women's football in England. The league consists of two divisions, the WSL 1 and the WSL 2. It is run by the Football Association and began in April 2011. An initial eight teams competed in one division, which replaced the FA Women's Premier League as the highest level of women's football in England. The current WSL 1 champions are Manchester City.
The FA WSL 2, introduced in 2014, added a second division and a further 10 teams to the league. There is promotion and relegation between the two divisions, and promotion for 2016 and 2017 from the FA Women's Premier League (level 3). WSL has operated as a summer league running from March until October, from its creation until the end of the 2016 season. From autumn 2017, the league will operate as a winter league from September to May, with a one-off shortened bridging season from February to May 2017. The WSL champions and runners-up qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League the following season. The bottom team of the WSL 1 at the end of each season will be replaced by the WSL 2 champion in the next season; however, for the 2015 and 2016 seasons both the WSL 2 champions and runners-up will be promoted as part of the league's planned expansion.
The FA WSL was due to start in 2010 but was deferred for a year due to the global economic downturn. Sixteen clubs applied for a place in the inaugural season of the league: Arsenal, Barnet, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Chelsea, Colchester United, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Everton, Leeds Carnegie, Leicester City, Lincoln Ladies, Liverpool, Millwall Lionesses, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest and Sunderland. Leeds Carnegie later withdrew their application. Women's Premier League clubs Blackburn Rovers and Watford declined to apply. FA Chief Executive Ian Watmore described the creation of the league as a "top priority" in February 2010.
Expansion I: Formation of WSL 2
For the 2014 season the league was extended. A second division was created, with 9 new teams added and one team being relegated from the WSL 1. WSL 1 remained as 8 teams, with the WSL 2 having 10 teams. The new WSL 1 licence was awarded to Manchester City. Doncaster Rovers Belles were relegated to the WSL 2, with nine new licences awarded to: London Bees; Durham; Aston Villa; Millwall Lionesses; Yeovil Town; Reading; Sunderland; Watford; and Oxford United. Doncaster Belles appealed against their demotion, but were unsuccessful.
Expansion II: 20-team league
In December 2014, the FA WSL announced a two-year plan to expand WSL 1 from an eight to 10-team league. Two teams will be promoted from WSL 2, while one team will be relegated to WSL 2. Also, for the first time, a team from the FA Women's Premier League can earn promotion to WSL 2, effectively connecting the WSL to the rest of the English women's football pyramid. In 2015, Sheffield FC Ladies became the first club to take this promotion place by beating Portsmouth FC Ladies 1-0 in the FA WPL Championship Play Off Final.
This will leave WSL 1 with nine teams and WSL 2 with 10 teams for the 2016 season, and with the process repeated the following year, both WSL 1 and WSL 2 will have 10 teams each for the 2017 season. In addition to being able to prove their financial solvency, clubs applying for entry to the WSL must show they will attract an average of 350 spectators in 2016, increasing to at least 400 in 2017.
The FA announced in July 2016 that the league will move from a summer league format to a winter one in line with the traditional football calendar in England, with matches played from September to May the following year. A shortened bridging season will take place, branded as The FA WSL Spring Series, with teams playing each other once from February to May 2017.
|Season||WSL 1||WSL 2|
|2011 to 2013||8||—|
The WSL consists of nineteen member clubs and the season is currently played over the summer months. Initially the league was described as professional, with the top four players on each team being paid an annual salary in excess of £20,000. However, in November 2010 it was confirmed that the WSL will be semi-professional, with only a "handful" of top players full-time. Clubs' annual wage bills will be approximately one-tenth of those in the American WPS. The FA envisage that the league will become fully professional in future, should it prove successful.
After the league fixtures, the teams compete for a knock-out cup competition, the FA WSL Continental Cup. For the 2014 season, the teams are placed into three regional groups of 6. The group winners and best-performing runners-up all advance to a knockout semi-finals.
In July 2015, FA's head of women's leagues and competitions, Katy Brazier announced 'the long term plan was to have 24 teams play in the WSL.'
The 2017–18 season will have 21 teams, 10 of which play in the WSL 1.
The FA had intended to confirm a title sponsor by summer 2010, but failed to do so. In November 2010, however, the FA's project manager said that the WSL was "building up a family of commercial partners." Days before the competition began, Yorkshire Building Society and Continental Tyres were named as two of a proposed four "Lead Partners". Only Continental remained a lead partner for 2012. In 2013, it was announced that Continental had extended their partnership as the exclusive partner of the FA's new commercial programme from 2014-2018 and includes the England women's national football team, FA Women's Cup and the FA WSL Continental Cup in addition to the WSL.
On 8 December 2009, the FA and ESPN agreed an exclusive four year broadcast rights deal for television coverage of the WSL. Six live matches will be shown in 2011 addition to a weekly highlights package, with 10 games expected to be shown in 2012. ESPN televised the opening game of the WSL between Chelsea and Arsenal at Imperial Fields, Morden on 13 April 2011, a game Arsenal won 1–0 with a first half goal by Gilly Flaherty. The second televised game took place on 12 May 2011 as Doncaster Belles lost 1–0 to Everton Ladies at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster. Minor girl group PARADE became the competition's Official Ambassadors in March 2011.
In March 2013, it was announced that BBC Two would air four WSL programmes during the upcoming season. Each programme featured goal round-ups, highlights, features and previews of England's World Cup qualifiers.
- Birmingham City
- Doncaster Rovers Belles
- Manchester City
- Notts County
- Aston Villa
- Bristol City
- London Bees
- Millwall Lionesses
- Oxford United
- Yeovil Town
Six of the original teams played their 2009–10 season in the FA Women's Premier League, Liverpool and Lincoln played in the 2nd level Northern Division, which Liverpool won. Later the eight clubs had their licences extended for the 2013 season, with all eight plus the new ten teams being awarded licences in 2014. The WSL 2 is expanding one club in 2016 and 2017, which will be promoted from the FA Women's Premier League provided they meet licensing requirements.
In the first season of the WSL clubs were subject to a squad cap of 20 players. This proved unpopular with both managers and players. Ahead of the 2012 season the rule was reviewed and the cap increased to 23 players.
The FA said in April 2012 that the salary rule of allowing only four players per team to earn over £20,000 and the fact that all clubs are paid £70,000 per season from a Club Development Fund should limit any financial "imbalance" between clubs. However, the introduction of a genuine salary cap remained under consideration for 2013 and beyond. Doncaster manager John Buckley revealed that his club lost Rachel Williams and other players to Birmingham City because he was working to a budget eight times smaller than that enjoyed by Birmingham.
When the 2012 WPS season was cancelled in America, Lincoln Ladies manager Glen Harris said that the next destination of that league's British players would be decided by "pounds, shillings and pence." Ultimately Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Gemma Davison all joined Arsenal, while Ifeoma Dieke and Anita Asante joined the Swedish Damallsvenskan in preference to the WSL.
Manchester City are the current 2016 WSL champions. Liverpool took the 2014 WSL title, retaining their crown from 2013. Arsenal were the winners of the 2012 WSL. It was their ninth consecutive English championship after winning the last seven editions of the FA Women's Premier League.
|2011||Arsenal||Birmingham City||Everton||Rachel Williams (Birmingham City)||14|
|2012||Arsenal||Birmingham City||Everton||Kim Little (Arsenal)||11|
|2013||Liverpool||Bristol Academy||Arsenal||Natasha Dowie (Liverpool)||13|
|2014||Liverpool||Chelsea||Birmingham City||Karen Carney (Birmingham)||8|
|2015||Chelsea||Manchester City||Arsenal||Beth Mead (Sunderland)||12|
|2016||Manchester City||Chelsea||Arsenal||Eniola Aluko (Chelsea)||9|
|2014||Sunderland||Doncaster Rovers Belles||Reading||Fran Kirby (Reading)||24|
|2015||Reading||Doncaster Rovers Belles||Everton||Courtney Sweetman-Kirk (Doncaster Rovers Belles)||20|
|2016||Yeovil Town||Bristol City||Everton||Iniabasi Umotong (Oxford United)
Jo Wilson (London Bees)
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