WSL restructure to go into effect with 2018-19 season
Today, the FA announced its plan to restructure the WSL 1, the top division for women’s professional soccer in England which features expanding to a field of up to 14 teams with full-time professional players as well as adding a new league, tier 2, which would serve as the semi-professional or part-time environment.
The announcement of a restructure came on the heels of a review of women and girls’ soccer competitions by Wharton Consulting for the FA which was done in an effort to continue to build both a sustainable and successful “high performance system.” The changes, which are set to go into effect with the start of the 2018-19 season, will see the WSL 1 expand to a top tier of up to 14 teams, all with full-time professional players. A second tier will be created as a new league with up to 12 teams which is set to serve as the semi-professional environment for clubs whose players are part-time. Tiers 3 and 4, the current WPL, will maintain their regional structures with both promotion opportunities as well as relegation across all tiers of the pyramid.
The restructure was a crucial piece of the FA’s “Gameplan for Growth” strategy which is centered around transforming women’s soccer in England by doubling participation, doubling the fanbase, and for England teams to see success across the world stage. Katie Brazier, the FA’s head of women’s leagues and competitions sees the announcement of the league restructure as a landmark moment for the sport in England. “The changes will continue our journey to transform key elements of the women’s game,” said Brazier in the FA’s official release. “Providing an elite performance environment that will produce more and better players, increase the interest and excitement via a more competitive league, attract a greater number of fans and in turn deliver improved commercial viability for clubs and the leagues.”
Current clubs at the WSL 1 and WSL 2 levels have the opportunity to apply for a license for either tier 1 or tier 2. Clubs applying for tier 1 status are required to commit to having a roster of full-time professional players that spend a minimum for 16 hours per week (plus matches) of “daytime contact.” This number will increase to 20 hours per week by the 2021-2022 season. Clubs will also be held accountable for providing an elite performance environment inclusive of strength and conditioning, performance preparation, medical and player welfare as well as marketing plans to promote matches and the teams locally.
Applications from clubs to various tiers of the league will be reviewed by a panel before decisions are made by the FA Women’s Football Board in December.
NWSL announces list of awards for the 2017 season
The NWSL announced today the list of the 2017 NWSL Awards that will be voted upon by both fans, club staff, players, and the media. The list includes the Golden Boot, Most Valuable Player, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Best XI.
In the first round, coaches, club owners, general managers, players, and the media will vote on individual awards beginning tomorrow through October 2. From that round, finalists for each individual award will be chosen. The fans will then vote on line in the second and final round of voting beginning on October 4 and running through October 6. The voting breakdown is as follows:
Preliminary Round: Owners/GMs/Coaches (25%), Media (25%) and Players (50%)
Final Round: Fans (20%), Owners/GMs/Coaches (20%), Media (20%) and Players (40%)
Award winners will be announced in the days leading up to and following the NWSL Championship set to take place in Orlando on Saturday, October 14. The Golden Boot, Second XI and Best XI are set to be announced ahead of the Championship game, with the rest of the awards scheduled to come in the days after. Below is the complete awards announcement schedule.
Monday, Oct. 2: Golden Boot
Tuesday, Oct. 10: Second XI
Thursday, Oct. 12: Best XI
Monday, Oct. 16: Coach of the Year
Tuesday, Oct. 17: Rookie of the Year
Wednesday, Oct. 18: Goalkeeper of the Year
Thursday, Oct. 19: Defender of the Year
Friday, Oct. 20: MVP
Ellen, Julia Roberts, and other celebs release PSA to support the NWSL
On her show today, Ellen Degeneres released a PSA in which she partnered with Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, David Beckham and Zendaya, and others to #PassTheBall to raise awareness about the NWSL. The ad was shared via Ellen’s social channels as well.
Despite arguably good intentions to have key celebrity spokespeople spread awareness of the NWSL, the ad was not received particularly well by core NWSL fans. The overall sentiment was that it felt a little forced and may come too little, too late with the regular season coming to a close in the coming days. Critique also stems from the fact that the ad, while featuring top celebrities and honing in on supporting the league, doesn’t feature any key stars from the league or any of the teams, let alone match footage. For that reason, so many key elements of the league, like the passion and excitement, which are usually big draws to sports fans, are completely missed. The ad closes with an end card that showcases tune-in information for the NWSL Championship on October 14, something that an audience who didn’t watch the regular season might not be interested in – again, seeming out of touch.
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