Sheffield FC become latest casualty of FA’s restructuring of women’s football

first_imgDefender Gilly Flaherty has become the third Chelsea player, after Becky Spencer and Claire Rafferty, to join West Ham. Flaherty spent four years in south London winning two WSL1 titles and two Women’s FA Cups.The draw for the Women’s Champions League qualifying groups means Glasgow City will face Anderlecht, Górnik Łęczna of Poland and Martve from Georgia. The champions of Northern Ireland, Linfield, will play Republic of Ireland champions Wexford, Ajax and Thór/KA from Iceland. Cardiff Met take on Ukraine’s Kharkiv, Romania’s Olimpia Cluj and Birkirkara from Malta in the ties to be played from 7-13 August. The 10 group winners and two best runners-up go through to the round of 32 – Manchester City and Chelsea are among the clubs with byes.It is tight at the top of the Fifa world rankings and England have fallen from second to fourth. Germany and France have leapfrogged the Lionesses to sit behind the US at the top. Japan are the biggest movers, climbing six places into fifth.The Belgium forward Tessa Wullaert has joined Manchester City after three years with the German double winners Wolfsburg. Having signed a two-year deal with the WSL2 runners-up, she said: “There was only one club [in England] I wanted to play at, and I told my manager ‘I want to play at City’, so let it begin.”Lewes have signed Lucy Somes, following her release by Brighton & Hove Albion, and Charley Boswell, who joins from Portsmouth. Lewes are about to embark on their first season in the semi-professional women’s championship and both players were involved in Brighton’s promotion to the second tier, with Somes the club’s top scorer for the 2015-16 season. From Manchester United to Lewes, newcomers benefit from WSL revamp Facebook Share on Facebook Women’s football Topics Read more If clubs that have made it through the application process – which was designed to create sustainable leagues of professional and semi-professional clubs and players – find themselves unable to fulfil the requirements of those leagues so soon after their admission, then just how stringent has the application process been? On the first anniversary of the FA’s Grow the Game launch in April, the head of women’s football Baroness Sue Campbell was adamant that the process was fair and rewarded clubs willing to up their game and commit to the plans: “It isn’t just about money or reputation. It is about a real understanding of what we want for the women’s game.“We’ve made it very clear all the way through that we respect the people who have travelled on this journey with us and we want to continue to take them with us. But the reality is they also have to step up to meet these new and ambitious targets. We’re not abandoning people but equally we have to do this based on the quality of the bid.”Yet with so many clubs – both successful and unsuccessful in their applications – with rich histories in the game and that have demonstrated their commitment time and time again failing to meet the criteria, is it time for greater transparency from the FA about the decisions made during the selection process? At what stage are the financial requirements placed on clubs judged to be unrealistic? And, how can the FA trust the stability of any of the applications received given recent history?Now the FA has a vacant spot in tier two. With Sunderland currently appealing against their two-tier demotion from the top flight, Southampton’s new side surprisingly missing out and Blackburn Rovers, Crystal Palace, Derby County and C&K Basildon all worthy of a place based on performance, the FA must decide whether an application deemed not good enough the first time round can be bumped up. An FA statement in response to Sheffield FC’s decision said: “The FA is sorry to hear that Sheffield FC Ladies have taken the decision to withdraw from the FA Women’s Championship. We are liaising with the club on next steps.”Meanwhile the governing body also said they would not be commenting on the progress of Sunderland’s appeal as it is a confidential process.Sheffield FC may be the latest club to buckle under the weight of the financial demands placed on them but they may not be the last. The question is how bad does the fallout need to become before there’s a major rethink?Talking points Share on Pinterest Is it time ​for greater transparency from the FA about the decisions made during the selection process? The latest casualty of the FA’s restructuring of women’s football came at the weekend as Sheffield FC announced they would be withdrawing from the rebranded second tier, the Women’s Championship, less than a month after their application to remain there was successful.“Following a meeting of the directors, the club has taken the very difficult decision to withdraw from the FA Women’s Championship. The financial commitments necessary to compete at this level are proving now too onerous,” a Sheffield FC statement posted on their website read. Share via Email Pinterest Twitter “Sheffield FC has been a pioneer of women’s football in Sheffield over the past 15 years and has competed with honour, pride and considerable success against clubs with much greater resources. Sheffield FC will continue to participate in girls’ and women’s football.“The structure of the women’s game at elite level is moving towards a full-time operation which is now no longer consistent with where Sheffield FC is positioned as a club.”Sheffield FC is a club that has risen through the leagues on merit, hard work and delicate budgeting – partnered with the oldest men’s club still in existence, who play their football in the eighth tier of the men’s pyramid. Having won promotion to the second tier in 2015 they finished fifth in their first season and claimed the same spot in the 2017-18 season.The club’s decision to remove themselves from the Championship two months before it begins raises serious questions about the FA’s application process and the financial criteria within it.Yeovil were admitted into the top tier, the Women’s Super League, after having to go public in a bid to raise the £350,000 they said they would need to remain in the professional top flight. Millwall Lionesses stood on the brink of administration – only to be saved by a crowdfunding campaign and late investment – shortly after their application to remain in tier two was approved. Share on Twitter Share on Messenger The defender Gilly Flaherty has joined West Ham from Chelsea. Photograph: Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images Share on LinkedIn Sportblog Share on WhatsApp features Reuse this contentlast_img

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