Normally I am in a great mood on a Friday evening because I am greeting the weekend but not today! Late this afternoon the news came out that friends of Since 71, Yeovil Town will drop down two divisions from the Women’s Super League to the National League after the FA rejected their bid for a second-tier licence.
The Lady Glovers ended the season at the foot of the Super League table after suffering a points penalty was a result of the club informing the FA of their initial intention to appoint an administrator, even though staffing cuts and financial support from the FA meant insolvency was avoided. Everyone involved in the club were hopeful that they would only be relegated to the Championship, however, have been told they do not meet the relevant criteria to meet the FA’s requirements.
The FA have said that they will support Yeovil with their “move to tier three” but god knows what that means. The FA have effectively Yeovil Town back about five years as other clubs will no doubt pick apart that squad which contains plenty of players who can compete at Super League and Championship level.
It appears that the club was stuck in a no-win situation while they were unable to confirm sponsorship deals for next season. Without confirmation on what league they will be competing in while the FA wanted proof of income before agreeing to a Championship licence.
In a statement, the club said: “We submitted what we believed was a viable and sensible business plan to revert to part-time football but also keep all the building blocks in place to ensure our academy and young players could continue to develop. The FA did not support that plan and they have total discretion to whom they will or will not grant licences. It may surprise many to know that their right to make that decision is final and there is no right of appeal.
“So many people associated with this wonderful football club will be incredibly disappointed and rightly so. Our challenges on and off the field this season have been well documented but we have always tried to do the best in these circumstances.
“The Club must now plan over the coming days and weeks for Tier 3 football and what that will mean for us on and off the field. Effectively this is where we started several years ago before our journey of growth. Many people doubted a small club like us could achieve what we have so it is now time to prove the doubters wrong once again. We shall share more thoughts and plans on this over the coming weeks as at the moment all involved need time to reflect on recent events.
“As a Club we need to thank so many people who have been part of this family over recent years. Just about everyone assisting us off the field has been a volunteer and given time and expertise freely and graciously. In addition, both our fans and sponsors have been a huge source of commitment and encouragement. This year we want particularly to thank Lee Burch and his staff and players for what they achieved in the WSL against all odds and teams with budgets far exceeding ours. We are already talking to Lee about plans for next year and hope these discussions can be positive.”
While there appears to be good levels of finding within the top level of women’s football the lower tiers are still suffering and clubs that reach difficulties still find it easy to recover, just look at the likes of Sunderland, Sheffield FC, Doncaster Rovers Belles and most famously in 2017 when Notts County Ladies were forced to fold only two days before the beginning of the season.
At the moment it isn’t clear if Yeovil’s place in the Championship will be covered by another side. Sunderland and Cardiff City both finished runners up of the National League north and south respectively but I am led to believe that neither side would be in a position to meet the criteria to participate at that level, especially at such short notice. The FA could keep the league at an odd number as they did this season or alternatively, they could open it up to applications which I know would get the attention of Southampton, Crystal Palace and Derby County who all failed in their application last summer.
For me personally, this news is quite difficult to take. Everyone at the club has been so supportive of our Since 71 project and they deserved to be competing in the Championship. While I would never question the commitment of the manager, Lee Burch, I wouldn’t blame him if he parted company to remain at a higher level. He’s a great coach and will be in demand if any other positions become available. On a positive note, I love the National League, while it lacks the money and exposure of the top two tiers it is very competitive. Hopefully Yeovil can stabilise themselves quickly over the summer and build a side that will compete at the top of the league and compete for promotion. Whatever league they compete in, I will be there next year to cheer them on!