Doncaster Belles: FAWSL to switch from summer to winter in 2017

FA Women's Super League action between Sunderland Ladies v Doncaster Rovers Belles.
FA Women's Super League action between Sunderland Ladies v Doncaster Rovers Belles.
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Doncaster Rovers Belles’ schedule will change in 2017 after FAWSL chiefs announced plans to move the league’s calendar from summer to winter.

From next year the FAWSL will be played alongside the traditional football calendar, from September until May.

To bridge the gap between the seasons, there will be a one-off competition, The FAWSL Spring Series, which will be played from February to May next year.

The FAWSL was launched as a summer league in 2011, with eight teams.

It is now in its sixth season, operating with 19 teams across two tiers.

The current schedule, which sees the season run from March to November, has been heavily criticised by players, management and fans alike.

Doncaster, for instance, played their first home game against Chelsea on March 24.

But a cancellation against Arsenal in May means it will be four months by the time Belles next run out at the Keepmoat against Birmingham on July 30.

Yet later in the season Belles have four home games in succession between September 1 and October 16.

The FA say the change in format has been introduced to increase player welfare, further grow and develop the league and attendances, address issues around fixture congestion and planning and provide the platform for a winning England team.

FA director of football participation and development Kelly Simmons said: “When we launched the FA WSL in 2011 it was the right decision to play it as a summer league, which has been demonstrated by the competitive, exciting football, growing attendances and player development.

“However, there are still a number of issues holding the league back, such as fixture scheduling and ground availability. We want to keep building on the momentum and growth of the league and we believe now is the right time to change the calendar.

“The move is designed to bring many benefits to the women’s game and we’ve worked closely with our clubs and other stakeholders in making this decision.

“Player welfare is the prime concern of clubs and for us and these changes will allow more structured rest and recovery time, while fixtures will be more regularly structured with less congestion.

“The FA is committed to investing in women’s football and aims to double participation and attendances by 2020, as well as creating the right environment for England to have the best chance of winning the 2023 World Cup and we believe that these changes will help us to further achieve these aims.

“This is a really exciting time for the women’s game and we will work alongside our clubs to ensure we support them in the transition, across areas such as contracts, marketing and fixtures to make sure that it proves a big success.”