The FA Women’s Super League and Championship board has agreed to end the seasons of the top two divisions with immediate effect.
Decisions on whether the tables will be voided or teams will have their positions determined using a points per game formulation and whether promotion and/or relegation will stand have yet to be taken, with a proposal on sporting outcomes being taken to the full FA Board.
An FA statement said: “Following overwhelming feedback from the clubs, the decision to bring an end to the 2019-20 season was made in the best interest of the women’s game. This will also enable clubs, the FA Women’s Super League & Women’s Championship Board and the FA to plan, prepare and focus on next season when football returns for the 2020-21 campaign.
“Supporting the welfare of the clubs and players will continue to be our primary concern throughout this process, which also involved a robust and thorough examination of the logistical, operational and financial challenges that the game currently faces.”
Clubs in both the professional top tier and semi professional second tier of women’s football were last Wednesday asked to comment on whether they would be able to meet the logistical and financial requirements to complete the 2019-20 season, whether the leagues should be terminated and, if so, how they should be concluded. The options included whether the season should be voided with only Champions League positions determined, whether the leagues should be decided using a points per game formula and whether there should be promotion and relegation, just promotion, or neither.
“It’s obviously disappointing not to be able complete the season, but it is the right decision for the safety of everyone involved,” said the Manchester United manager, Casey Stoney. “Our focus now moves to our development for next season, which we have been continuously planning for throughout the year, and we can’t wait to be back on the pitch again when it is safe to do so.”
As it stands, Manchester City sit one point ahead of Chelsea at the top of the WSL but have played a game more. Should the FA decide to determine the league using points per game (either weighted, to take into account how many home and away fixtures teams have played, or unweighted) then Chelsea will leapfrog City and be awarded the title having played a game less than their rivals for the crown.
Champions League places and relegation from and promotion to the WSL would be unaffected in any scenario being touted. Chelsea and Manchester City remain in Champions League spots, Liverpool face relegation and Aston Villa stand ready to go up (with no promotion or relegation between steps three and seven on the women’s football pyramid there will be no relegation from the Championship).
However with just 71.9% of WSL games and 67.3% of Championship games having been played and only 12 and 11 teams in each league respectively there have potentially not been enough games played to award positions based on existing points regardless of which formula is used. In the WSL every team is yet to play each other with Chelsea and Everton not having met.
The decision on relegation and promotion is giving the governing body a major headache. Aston Villa have arguably earned promotion as they sit six points clear of Sheffield United at the top of the Championship. Liverpool, though, while rooted to the bottom of the WSL on six points, one point behind Birmingham, who have a game in hand, and three points behind Bristol City, have perhaps not done enough to warrant the drop.
Promote Villa and keep Liverpool in the WSL and the FA’s decision making lacks consistency. While the top tier would begin a new season with a frustrating odd number of teams and the Championship would have just 10 teams fighting it out across nine months.