The new FAWSL Match ball. Arsenal Women v West Ham United Women, WSL football match, Meadow Park Stadium, Borehamwood, UK - 08 Sep 2019 Photo: Kunjan Malde for The FA

Are virtual matchdays needed for the FAWSL and FAWC in 2020/2021?

Imagine owning a season ticket for the club which you love that allows you to cheer them on from the comfort of your own home, buy a digital programme and maybe even sit in the post-match press conference immediately after the match. This could be the answer to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship being able to operate in 2020/2021.

Make no doubt about it, just like so many other areas in Britain right now, football is in meltdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Football Association are thought to be ready to end the current campaign next week with ‘sporting merit’ possibly being used to calculate the final standings in both the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship according to reports by the Independent. There now needs to be a plan in place for next season.

The current facts do not offer much hope for fans of either the Barclays FA Women’s Super League or FA Women’s Championship. The Government are struggling to reduce the ‘R’ number, the method which they use to determine how many people are infected with the Coronavirus by others while there was no mention in their lockdown update last week about when large crowds may be able to congregate. They are likely to largely keep a ban on social gatherings until they at least know whether a vaccine for the virus will ever be found.

The reality is simple, if the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship are to even start in 2020/2021, it won’t be with crowds in attendance.

What is the immediate future of the higher end of the women’s game?

One option could be for clubs to come up with a short term plan for online content. Fans could pay either for the full season, on a monthly basis or match-by-match for access to a whole range of online content. This could include live match streaming, midweek training ground content and pre and post-match interviews. Clubs could even include special features such as having access to digital match programmes, phone and laptop wallpapers, conducting weekly lotteries and raffles and maybe even offering the opportunity for fans to quiz their own players.

Whilst this won’t be the desired option for anyone and is certainly not a long term overall solution, it would allow a steady stream of income for clubs at what is a tremendously difficult time and might just allow 2020/2021 to avoid being ‘the season that didn’t happen’.

Temporarily, we must look at what the short term future holds. Our country, our way of life and our beautiful game are changing. We are in a world of staying at home and socially distancing and for a considerable period, that won’t change. Football must now be flexible to offer a new unique experience which can help the sport beat the destruction of the Coronavirus pandemic and come out of the other side stronger than ever.

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