FA Women's Super League

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FA Women's Super League
FA WSL.png
Founded 22 March 2010
Country  England
Confederation UEFA
Divisions 2
Number of teams 10 (WSL 1)
10 (WSL 2)
Level on pyramid 1 (WSL 1)
2 (WSL 2)
Domestic cup(s) FA Women's Cup
International cup(s) Champions League
Current champions Chelsea (2nd title)
Most championships Arsenal
(2 titles each)
TV partners BT Sport
Website www.fawsl.com
FA WSL Spring Series

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 Chelsea, who won the inaugural FA WSL Spring Series.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] Leeds Carnegie later withdrew their application.[5] Women's Premier League clubs Blackburn Rovers and Watford declined to apply.[6] FA Chief Executive Ian Watmore described the creation of the league as a "top priority" in February 2010.[7]

Expansion I: Formation of WSL 2[edit]

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.[8][9][10][11] 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.[12] Doncaster Belles appealed against their demotion, but were unsuccessful.[13]

Expansion II: 20-team league[edit]

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.[14][15] 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.[16]

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.[14] 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.[17]

Winter League[edit]

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.[2]

Competition structure[edit]

Number of teams
Season WSL 1 WSL 2
2011—2013 8
2014—2015 8 10
2016 9 10
2017 9 10
2017–18 10 10
goal 12 12

The WSL consists of nineteen member clubs and the season is currently played over the summer months.[18] 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.[19] However, in November 2010 it was confirmed that the WSL will be semi-professional, with only a "handful" of top players full-time.[20] Clubs' annual wage bills will be approximately one-tenth of those in the American WPS.[20] The FA envisage that the league will become fully professional in future, should it prove successful.[21]

During the inaugural campaign, a mid-season break commenced on 12 May 2011, to allow for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. The season then resumed in early July, finishing in August 2011.[22]

After the league fixtures, the teams compete for a knock-out cup competition, the FA WSL Continental Cup.[23] 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.[24]

In July 2015, FA's head of women's leagues and competitions, Katy Brazier, announced the long-term plan to have 24 teams play in the WSL.[17]

The 2017–18 season will have 21 teams, 10 of which play in the WSL 1.[25]


The FA had intended to confirm a title sponsor by summer 2010, but failed to do so.[18] In November 2010, however, the FA's project manager said that the WSL was "building up a family of commercial partners."[20] Days before the competition began, Yorkshire Building Society and Continental Tyres were named as two of a proposed four "Lead Partners".[26] Only Continental remained a lead partner for 2012.[27] 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.[28][29]

Media coverage[edit]


On 8 December 2009, the FA and ESPN agreed an exclusive four year broadcast rights deal for television coverage of the WSL.[30] Six live matches will be shown in 2011 addition to a weekly highlights package, with 10 games expected to be shown in 2012.[22] 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.[31]


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.[32]


The following 19 clubs hold licenses to compete in the Women's Super League in 2017, with foundation clubs displayed in bold text.[18] Notts County had been scheduled to compete in WSL 1, but went out of business two days before their first match of the Spring Series.[33] For a list of every club to appear in the WSL, see List of FA WSL clubs.

WSL 1[edit]

The following ten clubs are competing in the WSL 1 in 2017,[12] with foundation clubs displayed in bold text.[18]

Club Town or City Most Recent
Arsenal Borehamwood 3rd
Birmingham City Solihull 7th
Bristol City Filton 8th
Chelsea Kingston upon Thames 1st
Everton Widnes 1st, WSL2
Liverpool Widnes 4th
Manchester City Manchester 2nd
Reading Farnborough 6th
Sunderland Hetton-le-Hole 5th
Yeovil Town Yeovil 9th

WSL 2[edit]

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,[34] with all eight plus the new ten teams being awarded licences in 2014.[12] 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.[14]


Arsenal's Ellen White (L) and Steph Houghton (R) with the WSL trophy

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.[35][36] Ahead of the 2012 season the rule was reviewed and the cap increased to 23 players.

Players from outside the European Union are subject to Home Office work permit regulations, like their male counterparts.[37]

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.[27] However, the introduction of a genuine salary cap remained under consideration for 2013 and beyond.[37] 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.[38]

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."[39] 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.


WSL 1[edit]

Year Winner Runners-up Third Top scorers Goals
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
2017[a] Chelsea Manchester City Arsenal Fran Kirby (Chelsea) 6

WSL 2[edit]

Year Winner Runners-up Third Top scorers Goals
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)
2017[a] Everton Doncaster Rovers Belles Millwall Lionesses Courtney Sweetman-Kirk (Doncaster Rovers Belles) 9
  1. ^ a b The 2017 edition was known as the Spring Series, and ran from February to May 2017 to bridge the gap from the 2016 FA WSL season which ran from March to September as a summer tournament, and the 2017–18 season which started in September 2017.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "WSL 1 Spring Series: Chelsea Ladies win title on final day". BBC Sport. 3 June 2017. Retrieved 3 June 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "FA Women's Super League to move to new calendar in 2017". The FA Women's Super League. The Football Association. 12 July 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2016. 
  3. ^ Tony Leighton (6 April 2009). "Anger at delay of women's summer Super League". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  4. ^ "Super League's Sixteen Applicants". Shekicks. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  5. ^ Tony Leighton (25 January 2010). "Leeds Carnegie could fold after ending Super League interest". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  6. ^ "Rovers decide against Super League". Blackburn Rovers. 20 January 2010. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  7. ^ "Watmore outlines top priorities". The Football Association. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  8. ^ "FA WSL 2014: Applications". thefa.com. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "FA WSL 2014-2018 brochure". thefa.com. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  10. ^ "The FA WSL Club Development Plan". thefa.com. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "Clubs bid for WSL spot". thefa.com. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c "FA Selects Clubs for WSL". WSL. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  13. ^ Baber, Mark. "Doncaster Belles lose appeal over demotion from Women's Super League". Inside World Football. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c "FA WSL 2 promotion announcement". Faws1.com. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "BBC Sport – Women's Super League to be expanded from 2015". BBC Sport. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  16. ^ "Sheffield FC beat Portsmouth in Women's Premier League play-off". BBC. 24 May 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  17. ^ a b "Katie Brazier: FA head of women's leagues targets WSL expansion". BBC Sport. 27 July 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c d "Women's Super League". thefa.com. The Football Association. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  19. ^ Tony Leighton (1 November 2009). "FA to launch full-time professional Women's Super League in 2011". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  20. ^ a b c Tony Leighton (14 November 2010). "FA confident 'Super League' will not suffer financial meltdown". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  21. ^ "FA hopes new Women's Super League will go professional". BBC Sport. 2011-04-11. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  22. ^ a b "FA WSL launches with derbies". UEFA.com. 23 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  23. ^ Laura Hardy (27 July 2011). "The FA brings the Continental Shot Stoppers Road Show to Everton". Conti.de. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  24. ^ WSL Continental Cup Group A WhoScored.com Accessed 17-04014
  25. ^ "Women's Super League to switch to winter season in 2017". BBC. 12 July 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2016. 
  26. ^ "Two WSL partners announced". She Kicks. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-12. 
  27. ^ a b "FAQ's 21 to 28". FAWSL. 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  28. ^ "Continental Tyres Renews Women's Super League Sponsorship in New FA Deal". isportconnect. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  29. ^ "FA Extends Deal With Continental Tires To Become Exclusive Women's Football Partner". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  30. ^ "FA agree Cup deal with ESPN". The Football Association. 8 December 2009. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  31. ^ "PARADE call the shots". The Football Association. 2011-03-30. Retrieved 2011-04-12. 
  32. ^ "Women's Super League to be shown on the BBC". BBC. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  33. ^ "Notts County Ladies: WSL 1 club fold on eve of Spring Series season". BBC Sport. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  34. ^ "FAQ's 1 to 5". FAWSL. 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  35. ^ "Matt Beard/ Chelsea LFC". shekicks.net. 2011-09-06. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  36. ^ "WSL progress continuing, says Liverpool's Vicky Jones". 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  37. ^ a b "FAQ's 15 to 20". FAWSL. 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  38. ^ "Buckley – We Were Outclassed". Doncaster Rovers Belles. 2011-09-05. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  39. ^ Whiley, Mark (2012-02-13). "Lincoln Ladies boss Glen Harris continues search for global talent". Lincolnshire Echo. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 

External links[edit]