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Fa wsl.jpg
Country England
Confederation UEFA (Europe)
Founded 22 March 2010
Number of teams 9
Level on pyramid 1
Relegation to FA WSL 2
Domestic cup(s) FA Women's Cup
International cup(s) Champions League
Current champions Manchester City
Most championships Arsenal (2)
Liverpool (2)
TV partners BT Sport
Website www.fawsl.com
2016 FA WSL

The Football Association Women's Super League 1 (FA WSL 1) is the highest division in of women's football in England. The division forms the top half of the Football Association Women's Super League, with relegation down to the WSL 2. It is run by the Football Association and began in April 2011. An initial eight teams competed in the league, which replaced the FA Women's Premier League as the highest level of women's football in England. The WSL 2 was introduced in 2014, bringing promotion and relegation to the league. The bottom team of the WSL 1 at the end of each season is replaced by the WSL 2 champion in the next season.

WSL 1 seasons run from April until October. The WSL champions and runners-up qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League the following season. The current champions are Chelsea, who won their first title in the 2015 season.

The official name The FA WSL and logo of the league were announced on 19 November 2010.[1]


The WSL was due to start in 2010 but was deferred for a year due to the global economic downturn.[2] 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.[3] Leeds Carnegie later withdrew their application.[4] Women's Premier League clubs Blackburn Rovers and Watford declined to apply.[5] FA Chief Executive Ian Watmore described the creation of the league as a "top priority" in February 2010.[6]

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.[7][8][9][10] The new WSL 1 licence was awarded to Manchester City and Doncaster Rovers Belles were relegated to the WSL 2.[11] Doncaster Belles appealed against their demotion, but were unsuccessful.[12]

In December 2014, the FA WSL announced a two-year plan to expand the WSL 1 from an eight to a ten team league. Two teams were promoted from the WSL 2 at the end of the 2015 season, while one team was relegated to the WSL 2.[13][14] Also, for the first time, a team from the FA Women's Premier League earned promotion to WSL 2, effectively connecting the WSL to the rest of the English women's football pyramid.[15]

That change left the WSL 1 with nine teams and the 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.

Competition structure[edit]

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

The WSL 1 currently consists of nine clubs and the season is played over the summer months.[16] 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.[17] However, in November 2010 it was confirmed that the WSL will be semi-professional, with only a "handful" of top players full-time.[18] Club's annual wage bills will be approximately one-tenth of those in the American WPS.[18] The FA envisage that the league will become fully professional in future, should it prove successful.[19]

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.[20]

After the league fixtures, the teams compete for a knock-out cup competition, the FA WSL Continental Cup.[21] For the 2014 season, the teams were placed into three regional groups of 6. The group winners and best-performing runners-up all advance to a knockout semi-finals.[22] Since the 2015 season, the WSL Continental Cup have been played simultaneously with the league season.


The FA had intended to confirm a title sponsor by summer 2010, but failed to do so.[16] In November 2010, however, the FA's project manager said that the WSL was "building up a family of commercial partners."[18] Days before the competition began, Yorkshire Building Society and Continental Tyres were named as two of a proposed four "Lead Partners".[23] Only Continental remained a lead partner for 2012.[24] 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.[25][26]

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.[27] Six live matches will be shown in 2011 addition to a weekly highlights package, with 10 games expected to be shown in 2012.[20] 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.[28]


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.[29]


The following nine clubs are competing in the WSL 1 in 2016,[11] with foundation clubs displayed in bold text.[16]


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.[30][31] 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.[32]

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.[24] However, the introduction of a genuine salary cap remained under consideration for 2013 and beyond.[32] 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.[33]

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."[34] 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.


Liverpool won the 2013 WSL following a 2-0 victory over Bristol Academy, in a title-deciding match on 29 September. 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.[35]

Year Winner Runners-up Third Top scorer 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


In the first three seasons the average attendance was about 550 to 600.[36] For 2014 the average increased to 728 and in 2015 after a good World Cup result of the English national team the average was boosted to 1,076.[37]

The record for a match was set in 2016, when 4,096 fans watched Manchester City win the title against Chelsea.[38]

All time table[edit]

FA WSL trophy

As of conclusion of the 2015 season.

Bolded teams played in the 2015 season. In 2015, Sunderland became the tenth team in the WSL.[39][40]

Club Sns Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Best
Arsenal 5 70 44 15 11 144 72 +72 1441 1st (2)
Birmingham City 5 70 30 21 19 103 80 +23 111 2nd
Chelsea 5 70 30 10 30 107 95 +12 100 1st
Bristol Academy 5 70 25 14 31 91 118 -27 89 2nd
Liverpool 5 70 25 12 33 105 114 -9 87 1st (2)
Notts County2 5 70 21 19 30 84 85 -1 82 4th
Everton 4 56 18 15 23 72 89 -17 69 3rd
Manchester City 2 28 15 4 9 38 27 +11 49 2nd
Doncaster Rovers Belles 3 42 6 8 28 32 96 -64 26 7th
Sunderland 1 14 6 2 6 24 24 +0 20 4th
  • 1: Arsenal were deducted 3 points in 2013.
  • 2: Includes Lincoln Ladies

See also[edit]


  1. ^ shekicks.net; FA Unveil New League Title And Logo
  2. ^ Tony Leighton (6 April 2009). "Anger at delay of women's summer Super League". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  3. ^ "Super League's Sixteen Applicants". Shekicks. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  4. ^ Tony Leighton (25 January 2010). "Leeds Carnegie could fold after ending Super League interest". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  5. ^ "Rovers decide against Super League". Blackburn Rovers. 20 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  6. ^ "Watmore outlines top priorities". The Football Association. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  7. ^ "FA WSL 2014: Applications". thefa.com. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "FA WSL 2014-2018 brochure". thefa.com. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  9. ^ "The FA WSL Club Development Plan". thefa.com. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "Clubs bid for WSL spot". thefa.com. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "FA Selects Clubs for WSL". WSL. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Baber, Mark. "Doncaster Belles lose appeal over demotion from Women's Super League". Inside World Football. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "FA WSL 2 promotion announcement". Faws1.com. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  14. ^ "BBC Sport – Women's Super League to be expanded from 2015". BBC Sport. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "Sheffield FC beat Portsmouth in Women's Premier League play-off". BBC. 24 May 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c "Women's Super League". thefa.com. The Football Association. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  17. ^ Tony Leighton (1 November 2009). "FA to launch full-time professional Women's Super League in 2011". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  18. ^ a b c Tony Leighton (14 November 2010). "FA confident 'Super League' will not suffer financial meltdown". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  19. ^ "FA hopes new Women's Super League will go professional". BBC Sport. 2011-04-11. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  20. ^ a b "FA WSL launches with derbies". UEFA.com. 23 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  21. ^ Laura Hardy (27 July 2011). "The FA brings the Continental Shot Stoppers Road Show to Everton". Conti.de. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  22. ^ WSL Continental Cup Group A WhoScored.com Accessed 17-04014
  23. ^ "Two WSL partners announced". She Kicks. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-12. 
  24. ^ a b "FAQ's 21 to 28". FAWSL. 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  25. ^ "Continental Tyres Renews Women's Super League Sponsorship in New FA Deal". isportconnect. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  26. ^ "FA Extends Deal With Continental Tires To Become Exclusive Women's Football Partner". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  27. ^ "FA agree Cup deal with ESPN". The Football Association. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  28. ^ "PARADE call the shots". The Football Association. 2011-03-30. Retrieved 2011-04-12. 
  29. ^ "Women's Super League to be shown on the BBC". BBC. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  30. ^ "Matt Beard/ Chelsea LFC". shekicks.net. 2011-09-06. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  31. ^ "WSL progress continuing, says Liverpool's Vicky Jones". 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  32. ^ a b "FAQ's 15 to 20". FAWSL. 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  33. ^ "Buckley – We Were Outclassed". Doncaster Rovers Belles. 2011-09-05. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  34. ^ Whiley, Mark (2012-02-13). "Lincoln Ladies boss Glen Harris continues search for global talent". Lincolnshire Echo. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  35. ^ "Arsenal are WSL champions". shekicks.net. 28 August 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  36. ^ "2011, 2012 and 2013 attendances". football-lineups.com. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  37. ^ "WSL crowds soar as fans fall in love with the women's game". The FA. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  38. ^ http://shekicks.net/news/view/13595
  39. ^ https://www.thechels.co.uk/all-time-wsl1-league/
  40. ^ https://www.thechels.co.uk/all-time-wsl2-league/

External links[edit]