West Ham Ladies are fearing for their future after FA plans to withdraw funding from the Women’s Premier League were revealed.
Blowing Bubbles understands that under the new proposals, dubbed the ‘Game Changer’ strategy, the FA’s focus will be primarily on the top flight of women’s football, the recently-created Women’s Super League.
This strategy will be at the expense of the Women’s Premier League, which will be merged with the South West, South East, Midland and Northern Combination league and would mean likely financial and footballing disaster for West Ham Ladies.
But last week a campaign was launched to try and stop this from happening. A spokesman for the Save Our WPL campaign said: “In December 2012, the FA invited all the Premier League clubs to a meeting to discuss the new League structure where [FA Director of the National Game and Women’s Football] Kelly Simmons delivered the FA’s devastating fait accompli.
"Either the current WPL clubs (29 in all made up of National, Northern and Southern divisions) would have to agree to become amalgamated with the Combination clubs from the leagues below and formed into a new, less supported Championship League, or the WPL would simply cease to exist altogether.
"The meeting was labelled ‘consultation’ but this was the first time all clubs had the chance to look at the new structure and therefore were denied any opportunity to fully consider all its implications.
"A vote was then undertaken in part by at least half the clubs who now belong to the WSL and also one or two now relegated clubs.
"But what was not fully understood at the time was how the clubs, and indeed the entire women’s game, would be affected when the new Championship league lost its Premier League stature and the level of funding substantially decreased.
"This means that 36 clubs per league will get a share of just £45k instead of 22 clubs accessing £140k, therefore less funds to help towards the cost of running teams at this level.
"The league will be downgraded from Premier to Championship level so clubs will find it hard to attract players and there will be less players coming into the game in the lower leagues because the FA isn’t strongly supporting them.
"When funding is cut, Men’s clubs that have Women’s team may not continue to support them either; therefore there is a real risk to their future survival.
"The FA are building a top down strategy rather than a bottom up one which will create an elitist sport rather than a sport for all."
Save Our WPL are demanding a Special General Meeting with the FA to debate ‘Game Changer’ against their alternative strategy for women’s football, ‘Every Player Counts’.
The spokesman added: “It’s clear from Women’s Premier League (WPL) players’ reactions so far, the absence of promotion from WPL to Women’s Super League (WSL) in the Game Changer strategy is a huge demotivating factor in their development and may even cause some to leave the game.
"Rather than throwing the Women’s Premier League under the bus, the FA should, in fact, be looking to retain the WPL and invest more in its growth both in finance and management, as they have learned already how necessary it is to support the lower leagues in the men’s game.
"Ours is an approach that will be a more effective and cost-efficient way to achieve a more widespread player development route and create pathways for new players.
"In short, it will respect and deliver on the women’s game as a national, grassroots movement and not an elite sport for the wealthy few. And it will ultimately better serve the England national team by helping to develop many more English players. The FA have also moved to distance themselves from the FAWPL by claiming their previous collaboration was a “mistake”.
The news was announced on the influential independent FAWPL News Twitter account which has done much to promote the women’s game in England. The FA were unavailable for comment.
By David Blackmore
West Ham Ladies
The latest news, views and opinion from West Ham United Ladies by Blowing Bubbles editor David Blackmore.