Doncaster Rovers Belles face the biggest fixture in their history next Tuesday.
But instead of facing opponents on the pitch, the focus of attention is very much off it as they present their appeal against being placed in FA Women’s Super League 2 in 2014.
The WSL is currently in its third summer season and Belles have been part of the same 8 team set-up since it was founded.
Prior to that Belles had always played at the top level of the women’s pyramid, but following the decision to expand the league to a two tier system with up to 20 clubs, 33 applications were received and Belles were placed in WSL 2, effectively being relegated after playing just one league game in 2013.
Belles were the only one of the current WSL clubs not to remain in the top tier, Manchester City the club who were assigned a place in the eight-strong WSL 1 for 2014.
WSL 2 has 10 clubs with Sheffield FC Ladies one of those who submitted an application but missed out on a place.
No-one at Doncaster would have hadany complaints if their relegation had been based on results on the field of play, but this is clearly not the case as Liverpool finished bottom of WSL in both 2011 and 2012, Belles finishing seventh both times.
Given the “no comments” from both Belles and the FA because of the appeal and until it has been heard, one can only surmise where the Belles bid failed and it is difficult to escape the feeling that money (and some clubs presenting budgets which would be very eye-popping) is the key factor.
Belles’ appeal has received widespread backing, including the full support of the other current WSL clubs with many players signing their petition against the FA’s decision.
Meanwhile, Sheffield, who finished FA Women’s Premier League Northern Division champions last season, face a very similar programme in 2013-14 due to the restructuring of the women’s pyramid. Previously, Sheffield would have been promoted to the National Division, but with the FAWPL losing clubs to the WSL, the revamp has seen the FAWPL split into a Northern Division and Southern Division, both with 11 clubs.
Of Sheffield’s opponents, only one, Leeds United, were in the National Division last season, while the only other new opponents will be Bradford City and Stoke City, both of whom were playing in the Combination Leagues last season.
Meanwhile, Sheffield’s Under 16 Squad play England CYP (Clubs for Young People) in a friendly at Brunsmeer’s Meadway Ground tomorrow (1.00pm). Sheffield’s squad achieved the Sheffield & Hallam County Girls League and Cup double last season. so will present suitable opponents for England who are preparing for August’s Rose Bowl tournament against the other home nations which is being held in Northern Ireland.
The England side includes the Sheffield pair of Jess Heald and Tilly Hallas-Potts, plus Nicole Kemp of Handsworth Ladies who landed the S & H County Women’s League and Cup double.