Chloe Kelly of Everton celebrates scoring her team’s third goal with her team-mates Everton Ladies v Reading Women, WSL football match, Select Security Stadium, Widnes, UK - 19 Jan 2020 Photo: Richard Martin-Roberts for The FA

Possible options for FAWSL and FAWC seasons in wake of Coronavirus

With so much uncertainty surrounding the approach to the Coronavirus and how the footballing world should tackle the pandemic, as well as the knock-on effects to it’s many fans and clubs, governing bodies remain in the dark on what are the best steps to take going forward.

In this article, we explore some of the possibilities that are available to the FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship for the remainder of the season.

Null and void

Wipe the slate clean and start the season in August as if the 2019/2020 campaign never happened. No relegation, no promotion, no title winners. UEFA Women’s Champions League qualification is as it was last year. This will greatly benefit teams at the lower end of their divisions as they can guarantee their league status for another year. Yet this would be at the detriment of teams like current FA Women’s Championship leaders Aston Villa who will be denied promotion to the top division despite a stellar season thus far. On top of this, Chelsea, possibly the best team in the FA Women’s Super League this season, would be refused the chance of claiming the league title having played fewer games than league leaders Manchester City and the opportunity to challenge for the UEFA Women’s Champions League next year.

End the season now

This possibility has several sub-categories which we will try to touch upon here.

  1. The current league positions will stand and Liverpool and Charlton Athletic will be demoted to lower divisions. Aston Villa will be awarded a place in next year’s FA Women’s Super League as league leaders of the FA Women’s Championship and Chelsea and Manchester City will be granted UEFA Women’s Champions League inclusion with City claiming the league title. This option throws up many issues, particularly the fact that many teams have games in hand therefore current league positions are not a fair reflection on them.
  2. League positions will stand, however, sides will not be punished for their position and others will be rewarded. In this scenario Liverpool will be spared relegation but Aston Villa will still be granted a passage into the top tier. In order to prevent a lopsided division with odd numbered teams Sheffield United, currently second in the FA Women’s Championship, will also be promoted and the FA Women’s Super League will be expanded to 14 teams.

Complete the Season

There are roughly six to eight fixtures remaining for each side in the top two divisions. The season is scheduled to finish in two months’ time, however, space will still need to be allowed for Women’s FA Cup matches if this option is chosen. Consequently, this will most likely require many midweek fixtures which puts a strain on players with other jobs and on fans in order to get to fixtures. In addition, if games are played in order to complete the season but teams are required to play behind-closed-doors the financial impact that this could have on sides may be too much for some teams to bear. Therefore the most preferable option under this umbrella is to complete the league with fans able to attend, however, that is very dependent on developments beyond the leagues’ control.

Play-offs

The final possibility in this list is to divide the leagues up into mini-tournaments and teams play-off to determine their league survival or promotion. This can be done in several different ways including the top sides from the FA Women’s Championship and bottom sides from the FA Women’s Super League being merged into one group or kept separate to ensure leagues aren’t identical next year. Another alternative, if time allowed, would be one similar to the Ladbrokes Premiership in Scotland where the leagues would be split into several round robin mini-leagues to reduce the number of fixtures but maintain a league structure to determine final places.

Sadly, the reality is that there will be no perfect solution that will please all fans, there won’t even be any good solutions, just less bad ones. Therefore, the priority for the leagues and clubs alike is to minimise the damage of what has taken place in order to guarantee the continued growth and survival of the women’s football pyramid in this country.

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