Katy Sandalls: A WSL by any other name... would still have issues

The women's game has changed massively in a short period of time. Picture: TONY MARSHALL/THE FA/THE

The women's game has changed massively in a short period of time. Picture: TONY MARSHALL/THE FA/THE FA VIA GETTY IMAGES - Credit: The FA via Getty Images

Football never stops and that’s definitely been the case for the women’s game this month.

We’ve had fundamental league changes, Phil Neville’s first start as manager and England’s biggest thrashing of France ever, it’s been non-stop.

For most sides what’s going to affect them most is that first bit, the new league changes.

Women’s league football has changed rapidly in the past few years: the 2017/8 season is the first to be played as a winter season after the move over from the traditional summer season began in 2016.

Now there are set to be even more changes as the FA announced recently that many of the top leagues will change their names.

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We’ve known for a while that the two top tiers were going to be open to applications from lower league sides.

Brighton have taken up the FA’s offer to move up to the top-tier with the fate of second-tier applicants to be discovered soon.

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However, what is certain is the name of this new tier they will be entering is the Women’s Championships, those who stay in the old Women’s Premier League will now be playing in the Women’s National League.

Part of me thinks this is a good idea to help bring in fans from the men’s game: potential supporters will see the league name and perhaps understand a little better how the set-up works.

The requirements for these leagues are also encouraging if a little quick. More professionalism and better contracts in theory.

The rest of me remains unconvinced. To massively misquote Shakespeare... a WSL by any other name would still have issues.

Firstly is this really changing the game for the better or is it a sticking plaster over a much larger wound?

Problems with grassroots and even higher-tier funding are still a massive problem.

Current concerns lie with teams like Sunderland and Yeovil who are putting in as much as they fiscally can but with the looming threat that they could easily fall short of new guidelines.

Will fans already acquainted with the game be confused by so many changes in such a relatively short period of time?

The Superleague tiers haven’t been in existence too long themselves and while most people will simply adapt to the new changes many might question the legitimacy of a system that can’t even decide on it’s own name.

It’s a harsh view but one that is entirely legitimate given the sort of audiences and numbers of players the game wants to attract in the coming years.

It will be interesting to see if these new labels change anything.

Back in Suffolk, but still on the theme of league structuring, I was sent across an interesting e-mail about the history of the Suffolk Women’s and Girls League (SWGFL).

My thanks must go to Allan Girot, the secretary of the league for writing up 16 years of history in one concise document.

Like the top tiers SWGFL has gone through its fair share of changes over the years.

Born initially out of a division of eight U11 teams the league grew slowly into what it is today: a league of 50 teams from the newly-established U10 division right up to a women’s league.

It’s had it’s struggles – the largest being the joining of the women’s and girls games – but the administrators and volunteers who helped it through its early days seem to have helped build those fundamental building blocks on which it stands today.

The emphasis now, as Allan so rightly puts it himself, is having that obvious pathway for girls to climb up. One that wasn’t really in existence in the early 2000’s.

Away from league structures England are currently in She Believes Cup action. Two games in and England could take the title if they beat hosts the USA tonight.

The US are the top ranked team in the world but England beat them in the competition this time last year so there really is everything to play for.

A dominant showing against a weakened France and a nervy if triumphant showing against Germany are good signs.

Kick off is at midnight GMT so maybe dust off the VHS recorder.

In Suffolk, AFC Sudbury take on Leiston St Margarets and Ipswich Town take on Ipswich Wanderers in the Suffolk FA Women’s Cup semi-finals so why not head down to the games for some local women’s football?

This month’s shout-out goes to Belstead United’s U16 squad who will be ball girls for Ipswich Town’s game against Milwall at the start of April.

If you or your team want a shout out next month then please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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