Doncaster Rovers Belles to play in National League after withdrawing from FA Women’s Championship

Doncaster Rovers Belles celebrate winning FAWSL2.
Doncaster Rovers Belles celebrate winning FAWSL2.
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Doncaster Rovers Belles have withdrawn from the FA Women’s Championship.

They will instead compete in the Women’s National League - which incorporates the third and fourth tier of the English game - in 2018/19.

Belles, who celebrate their 50th anniversary next year, said in a statement the switch ‘will ensure the continued viability and re-growth of the club’.

It is not yet clear whether Belles will play in the Northern Premier Division or Division One North.

Doncaster were one of the eight members of the inaugural FA Women’s Super League in 2011 but were controversially demoted to the newly-formed second tier in 2013.

They won promotion back to FAWSL1 at the second attempt but were relegated after one season back in the top flight.

Belles won FAWSL2 last term but could not afford a Tier 1 licence and have since seen their chair-lady resign, manager Neil Redfearn leave for Liverpool Ladies and four key players depart.

Women’s Super League 2 has been renamed as the FA Women’s Championship from next season, as part of a restructure of English women’s leagues.

“The club can announce that for the 2018/2019 season we will be competing in the Women’s National League,” said Belles’ statement.

“We can confirm we have withdrawn from the Women’s Championship and await FA ratification of the move in their Special General Meeting (date to be confirmed).

“We have worked closely with the FA and have mutually agreed the change in leagues which will ensure the continued viability and re-growth of the club.”

The statement continued: “Our 50th year is upon us and the recent changes have allowed us to reflect and refocus.

“Our philosophy has always been centred on creating opportunities for women and girls in football.

“We are proud of our legacy which has pioneered the women’s game.

“Our coaching structure focuses on individual development and has seen players hit personal achievements, move on to high profile clubs and created opportunities with national teams.

“Our unique female mentoring scheme for coaches and managers has seen tremendous talent enter the game and again move onto exciting opportunities within the sport including with the England Lionesses.

“This remains our philosophy and we are excited to see a wealth of young developing players have a great opportunity to hit their full potential under a fantastic coaching team.

“We look forward to celebrating our 50th Birthday with you all #backthebelles and welcome your input and support.”