When it was announced that the ‘non-elite’ tiers of the women’s football pyramid were to be curtailed and will not recommence as lockdown eased, it was hinted that the FA may consider upward movement between leagues. This afternoon we have confirmed that the process of upward club movement by application will take place.
This is a sensible and forward-thinking move by the FA and for me, a move that should be celebrated. I cannot imagine a scenario where the likes of Ipswich Town, Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers would not easily satisfy the criteria to join their respective National League North and South.
Their respective tier four regional league will also benefit by this move. Due to the superior facilities and the results on the pitch, it is clear that the aforementioned clubs would again dominate their divisions and limited the open competition for trophies.
I appreciate that there are multiple teams in the same situation and those that I have mentioned are simply the most high profile examples.
The FA statement said, “The Women’s Football Board has made the recommendation having consulted with clubs, leagues and relevant stakeholders, with the response overwhelmingly in favour of Upward Club Movement taking place. The Board’s recommendations were subsequently approved by both the FA Board and FA Council.
“As a result, all clubs currently participating in Tiers 3 to 6 (inclusive) of the Women’s Pyramid are permitted to apply for upward movement. Clubs that are successful in their application will move into the league or division immediately above the Tier in which they currently play – clubs will not be able to move up more than one tier.
“This would mean a club participating at Tier 5 would move into Tier 4, while a club participating in Tier 3 would be able to move into Tier 2 – The FA Women’s Championship.”
The application will be marked against a criteria weighted 75% on-field and 25% off-field. The on-field criteria will consider aspects such as points per game, cup performances and goal difference, across the last two seasons. The off-field section will mark clubs on areas such as club structure, workforce and facilities.
Clubs that meet these requirements will be ranked against those other clubs that have applied from within the same division and which have also fulfilled the relevant requirements. The club with the highest number of marks within each division will be offered upward movement. Those clubs in Tier 3 applying for Upward Club Movement must be able to demonstrate compliance with the licence criteria in order to play in the FA Women’s Championship.
The top-scoring clubs in the Upward Club Movement application in each of the Northern and Southern Premier Divisions will be offered a place in Tier 2, as long as they also achieve the minimum licence criteria. If they cannot achieve the licence criteria, then the club with the next highest scoring Upward Club Movement application may be offered a place in Tier 2 providing they meet the licence criteria.
The FA have also shared that there will be two spaces in all of the relevant leagues, obviously implying to me that there will be two teams promoted. This includes the Championship which has had an odd number of clubs every since Yeovil Town were moved from the WSL to the National League South.
When the leagues were cancelled the FA added that clubs may consider seeking to be moved down to a lower league. It remains to be seen if many clubs will opt for this as it will obviously impact the number of clubs that are moved up.
Clubs were informed of the process and provided with application forms and guidance last week. The deadline for application is midday on Tuesday 4th May. The FA will look to communicate decisions by the end of May/beginning of June.
I understand that there will be many players, coaches and fans that might suggest that all clubs should earn promotion on sporting merit but these are not normal times. I believe that most of the clubs that are likely to benefit from this announcement will have earned promotion themselves had it not been for the cancellation of the last two seasons. Last weekend’s FA Cup results proved that the gap between the top two tiers and the ‘non-elite’ levels are widening and this move will go a long way to close that gap and make sure that not all clubs get cut adrift.