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FA Women's Super League
FA Women's Super League.png
Founded22 March 2010; 11 years ago (22 March 2010)
Displaced Premier League National as level 1 division
First season2011
Number of teams12
Level on pyramid1
Relegation toNone (2011-2012)
FA WSL 2 (2013-2018)
FA Women's Championship (2018-present)
Domestic cup(s)Women's FA Cup
Women's FA Community Shield
League cup(s)FA Women's League Cup
International cup(s)UEFA Champions League
Current championsChelsea
Most championships
TV partnersBT Sport
BBC Sport
see Broadcasting for international
WebsiteOfficial website
Current: 2020-21 FA WSL

The Football Association Women's Super League (FA WSL), and currently known as the Barclays FA Women's Super League for sponsorship reasons, is the highest league of women's football in England. Established in 2010, it is run by the Football Association and currently features 12 fully professional teams.

The FA WSL replaced the FA Women's Premier League National Division as the highest level of women's football in England. Eight teams competed in the first WSL season in 2011. In the WSL's first two seasons, there was no relegation from the division.

The WSL discarded the winter football season for six years, 2011-2016, playing through the summer instead (from March until October). Since 2017-18, the WSL has operated as a winter league running from September to May, as was traditional before 2011.

From season 2014 to 2017-18, the Women's Super League consisted of two divisions - FA WSL 1 and FA WSL 2 - and brought a promotion and relegation system to the WSL. From 2018 to 2019, the second division was renamed the FA Women's Championship.

The WSL champions and runners-up qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League the following season. The current FA Women's Super League champions are Chelsea, who won the 2020-21 season.

Commencing with the 2021-22 season the top three teams, as determined by the UEFA women's coefficient, will qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League.


The FA WSL was due to start in 2010 to replace the FA Women's Premier League National Division as the top level of women's football in England but was deferred for a year due to the global economic downturn.[1] Sixteen clubs applied for 8 places in the inaugural season of the league: Arsenal, Barnet, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Chelsea, Colchester United, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Everton, Leeds Carnegie, Leicester City, Lincoln Ladies, Liverpool, Millwall Lionesses, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, and Sunderland.[2] Leeds Carnegie later withdrew their application.[3] Women's Premier League clubs Blackburn Rovers and Watford declined to apply.[4] FA Chief Executive Ian Watmore described the creation of the league as a "top priority" in February 2010.[5]

The inaugural WSL season kicked-off on 13 April 2011 -- at Imperial Fields, Chelsea's home ground -- with a match between Chelsea and Arsenal, which Chelsea lost 0-1.[6]

Arsenal v Notts County in 2014

For the 2014 season a second division was created named FA WSL 2, with nine teams and one team being relegated from the WSL 1. WSL 1 remained as eight teams, with the WSL 2 having ten teams.[7][8][9][10] The new WSL 1 licence was awarded to Manchester City. Doncaster Rovers Belles were relegated to the WSL 2. They appealed against their demotion, but were unsuccessful.[11]

In December 2014, the FA WSL announced a two-year plan to expand the WSL 1 from an eight to a ten-team league. Two teams were promoted from the WSL 2 at the end of the 2015 season, while one team was relegated to the WSL 2 with the same happening at the end of the 2016 season.[12][13] Also, for the first time, a team from the FA Women's Premier League earned promotion to WSL 2, effectively connecting the WSL to the rest of the English women's football pyramid.[14]

The FA announced in July 2016 that the league would move from a summer league format to a winter one in line with the traditional football calendar in England, with matches played from September to May the following year. A shortened bridging season took place, branded as the FA WSL Spring Series, with teams playing each other once from February to May 2017.[15]

Following the 2017-18 FA WSL season, WSL 1 was renamed back to the FA Women's Super League, becoming a fully professional league for the first time, with eleven teams for the 2018-19 season.[16][17] Teams had to re-apply for their licence to earn their place in the league, requiring clubs to offer their players a minimum 16-hour a week contract and to form a youth academy as compulsory for the new licence criteria. Sunderland were moved down to tier 3 in the women's football pyramid after not receiving a licence whilst Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham United were added to the league.[18]

The league was extended to twelve teams for the 2019-20 season, with Yeovil Town relegated after going into administration and being replaced by Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, who gained promotion from the Championship.[19]

At the conclusion of 2020-21 campaign, four first-team managers resigned from their positions at WSL clubs Birmingham, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Aston Villa. Birmingham's outgoing manager Carla Ward questioned the commitment of some of the clubs involved in WSL,[20] whilst Manchester United's outgoing manager Casey Stoney allegedly quit because of unresolved issues surrounding lack of training facilities and other infrastructure.[21]

Competition structure

Season(s) Teams
2011-2015 8
2016-2017 9
2017-18 10
2018-19 11
2019-20 onward 12

The FA Women's Super League currently consists of twelve clubs. Initially the league was described as professional, with the top four players on each team being paid an annual salary in excess of £20,000.[22] However, in November 2010 it was confirmed that the WSL would be semi-professional, with only a "handful" of top players full-time.[23] Clubs' annual wage bills were expected to be approximately one-tenth of those in the now-defunct American Women's Professional Soccer.[23]

The 2011 season included a mid-season break from 12 May 2011, to allow for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. The season then resumed in early July, finishing in August 2011.[24]

After the league fixtures, the teams compete for a knock-out cup competition, the FA WSL Continental Cup.[25] For the 2014 season, the teams were placed into three regional groups of six. The group winners and best-performing runners-up all advanced to a knockout semi-finals.[26] Since the 2015 season, the WSL Continental Cup have been played simultaneously with the league season.

Following a review, the FA announced in September 2017 that a restructuring of the league and its licensing criteria would follow from the 2017-18 season with a goal of a fully professional top division of between 8 and 14 teams, and a second division of up to 12 semi-professional teams.[27] For the 2018-19 season, the league became fully professional.[16]


The following twelve clubs are competing in the 2020-21 season, with foundation clubs displayed in bold text.


Arsenal's Ellen White (L) and Steph Houghton (R) with the WSL trophy

In the first season of the WSL clubs were subject to a squad cap of 20 players. This proved unpopular with both managers and players.[28][29] Ahead of the 2012 season, the rule was reviewed and the cap increased to 23 players.[30] Players from outside the European Union, like their male counterparts, are subject to Home Office work permit regulations.[31]

The FA said in April 2012 that the salary rule of allowing only four players per team to earn over £20,000 and the fact that all clubs are paid £70,000 per season from a Club Development Fund should limit any financial "imbalance" between clubs.[32] However, the introduction of a genuine salary cap remained under consideration for 2013 and beyond.[31] Doncaster manager John Buckley revealed that his club lost Rachel Williams and other players to Birmingham City because he was working to a budget eight times smaller than that enjoyed by Birmingham.[33]

When the 2012 WPS season was cancelled in the United States, Lincoln Ladies manager Glen Harris said that the next destination of that league's British players would be decided by "pounds, shillings and pence."[34] Ultimately Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Gemma Davison all joined Arsenal,[35][36] while Ifeoma Dieke and Anita Asante joined the Swedish Damallsvenskan in preference to the WSL.


Trophy since the 2018-19 rebranding

By season

Teams in bold indicate doubles with the Women's FA Cup.

By team


In March 2019, the Women's Super League agreed a multi-million sponsorship deal with British bank Barclays from the start of the 2019-20 season. The three-year sponsorship deal is reported to be in excess of £10 million with a prize money pot of £500,000 for the league champions for the first time. The FA described the deal as "the biggest ever investment in UK women's sport by a brand".[37]

The league's lead sponsor from 2012 to 2019 was Continental Tyres. Continental sponsored the FA's new commercial programme from 2014 to 2018 including the England women's national football team, FA Women's Cup and the FA WSL Continental Cup in addition to the WSL.[38][39] During the 2011 season, Yorkshire Building Society was also a sponsorship partner along with Continental.[40][23]


As of December 2020, matches are broadcast and streamed in the United Kingdom and Ireland via the FA Player, BT Sport, and the BBC (UK only). Internationally, select matches are broadcast in at least 12 countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden, and the United States.

In the United Kingdom and Ireland

Since 2017-18, many FA WSL games have been broadcast on television by BT Sport, online and red-button by the BBC (UK only), and via the league's Facebook page.[41] BBC Sport has continued to air one game a weekend digitally via their iPlayer service and website,[42] while subscription channel BT Sport also holds the rights to televise a selection of matches.[43][44]

Since the 2019-20 season, league matches have been streamed via the FA Player, as well as some FA Women's Championship games, highlights from the Women's FA Cup, FA Women's League Cup and international England games.[45][46] Some games in the FA Player are excluded, such as those broadcast on BT Sport in the UK and Ireland due to licensing rights.[47]

In March 2021 the FA WSL announced a new record-breaking three-year domestic television rights deal with Sky Sports and BBC beginning 2021-22. Sky will broadcast 44 matches per season with a further 22 matches shown on BBC platforms including a minimum of 18 on BBC One or Two. All other fixtures will remain available to stream for free on the FA Player, the governing body's own over OTT service.[48] Believed to be worth around £8m a season, it is the biggest broadcast deal of any professional women's football league in the world and marked the first time that the WSL's rights had been sold separately from the men's game.[49]

Previously, FA women's competitions were broadcast on ESPN from 2009 to 2013 as part of a four-year broadcast rights deal.[50] Six live matches were broadcast in 2011 in addition to weekly highlights, with ten games expected to be shown in 2012.[24][needs update] ESPN broadcast the opening game of the WSL between Chelsea and Arsenal at Imperial Fields, Morden on 13 April 2011, a game Arsenal won 1-0 with a first half goal by Gilly Flaherty. The second televised game took place on 12 May 2011 as Doncaster Belles lost 1-0 to Everton Ladies at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster.

In 2013, BBC Two broadcast four WSL programmes during the 2013-14 season. Each programme featured goal round-ups, highlights, features and previews of England's World Cup qualifiers.[51]


See also


  1. ^ Tony Leighton (6 April 2009). "Anger at delay of women's summer Super League". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010.
  2. ^ "Super League's Sixteen Applicants". Shekicks. 7 January 2010. Archived from the original on 24 March 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  3. ^ Tony Leighton (25 January 2010). "Leeds Carnegie could fold after ending Super League interest". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010.
  4. ^ "Rovers decide against Super League". Blackburn Rovers. 20 January 2010. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 2010.
  5. ^ "Watmore outlines top priorities". The Football Association. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  6. ^ "Whole new ball game: How Chelsea Women kicked off WSL era 10 years ago today". chelseafc.com. 13 April 2021. Archived from the original on 16 May 2021.
  7. ^ "FA WSL 2014: Applications". The Football Association. Retrieved 2013.
  8. ^ "FA WSL 2014-2018 brochure". The Football Association. Retrieved 2013.
  9. ^ "The FA WSL Club Development Plan". The Football Association. Retrieved 2013.
  10. ^ "Clubs bid for WSL spot". The Football Association. Retrieved 2013.
  11. ^ Baber, Mark. "Doncaster Belles lose appeal over demotion from Women's Super League". Inside World Football. Retrieved 2014.
  12. ^ "FA WSL 2 promotion announcement". Faws1.com. Retrieved 2014.
  13. ^ "Women's Super League to be expanded from 2015". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2014.
  14. ^ "Sheffield FC beat Portsmouth in Women's Premier League play-off". BBC. 24 May 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  15. ^ "FA Women's Super League to move to new calendar in 2017". The FA Women's Super League. The Football Association. 12 July 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  16. ^ a b Louise Taylor (28 May 2018). "West Ham the big winners, Sunderland key losers in women's football revamp". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018.
  17. ^ "New look revealed for FA Women's Super League". fawsl.com. The Football Association. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  18. ^ "Women's Super League: New full-time, professional era - all you need to know". 9 September 2018. Retrieved 2019.
  19. ^ "Delightful Dozen". The FA. 30 August 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  20. ^ Dale, James (14 May 2021). "Carla Ward resigns as Birmingham City Women head coach after 'unsustainable' season". Sky Sports. United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 14 May 2021.
  21. ^ "Casey Stoney resigns as Manchester United Women head coach". Sky Sports. United Kingdom. 13 May 2021. Archived from the original on 14 May 2021.
  22. ^ Tony Leighton (1 November 2009). "FA to launch full-time professional Women's Super League in 2011". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010.
  23. ^ a b c Tony Leighton (14 November 2010). "FA confident 'Super League' will not suffer financial meltdown". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010.
  24. ^ a b "FA WSL launches with derbies". UEFA. 23 December 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  25. ^ Laura Hardy (27 July 2011). "The FA brings the Continental Shot Stoppers Road Show to Everton". Conti.de. Retrieved 2011.
  26. ^ WSL Continental Cup Group A WhoScored.com Accessed 17-04014
  27. ^ The Football Association (27 September 2017). "FA to restructure women's football pyramid at elite level". The Football Association. Retrieved 2017.
  28. ^ "Matt Beard/ Chelsea LFC". shekicks.net. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 2012.
  29. ^ "WSL progress continuing, says Liverpool's Vicky Jones". 15 June 2011. Retrieved 2012.
  30. ^ "FAQ's - 15 to 20". fawsl.com. Retrieved 2018.
  31. ^ a b "FAQ's 15 to 20". FAWSL. 3 April 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  32. ^ "FAQ's 21 to 28". FAWSL. 3 April 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  33. ^ "Buckley - We Were Outclassed". Doncaster Rovers Belles. 5 September 2011. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2012.
  34. ^ Whiley, Mark (13 February 2012). "Lincoln Ladies boss Glen Harris continues search for global talent". Lincolnshire Echo. Archived from the original on 16 February 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  35. ^ "England's Kelly Smith and Alex Scott rejoin Arsenal Ladies". BBC Sport. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 2018.
  36. ^ "Gemma Davison rejoins Arsenal Ladies | Ladies News | News | Arsenal F.C." 26 January 2013. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 2018.
  37. ^ "Women's Super League: Barclays agree multi-million sponsorship deal". 20 March 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  38. ^ "Continental Tyres Renews Women's Super League Sponsorship in New FA Deal". isportconnect. Retrieved 2013.
  39. ^ "FA Extends Deal With Continental Tires To Become Exclusive Women's Football Partner". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved 2013.
  40. ^ "Two WSL partners announced". She Kicks. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  41. ^ "FA wants Women's Super League on terrestrial TV". The Times. 28 June 2019.
  42. ^ "FA Player: Football Association to launch women's football live streaming app". 6 August 2019.
  43. ^ "FA WSL on TV". The Football Association.
  44. ^ "FA wants Women's Super League on terrestrial TV". The Times. 28 June 2019.
  45. ^ "New streaming service for Barclays FA WSL". fawsl.com.
  46. ^ "FA Player: Football Association to launch women's football live streaming app". 6 August 2019.
  47. ^ "FA WSL on TV". The Football Association.
  48. ^ "Landmark deal for FA WSL as Sky Sports and BBC secure record-breaking rights deal". Digital TV Europe. 22 March 2021.
  49. ^ "'A huge step forward': WSL announces record-breaking deal with BBC and Sky". The Guardian. 22 March 2021.
  50. ^ "FA agree Cup deal with ESPN". The Football Association. 8 December 2009. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 2010.
  51. ^ "Women's Super League to be shown on the BBC". BBC. Retrieved 2013.
  52. ^ Optus, Singtel. "optus sport kicks off new investment in women's football". optus.com.au. Retrieved 2019.
  53. ^ "Sportsnet Signs Two-Year Broadcast Deal With Barclays FA Women's Super League". Sportsnet. Retrieved 2020.
  54. ^ "New broadcast deal for WSL". FA. Retrieved 2020.
  55. ^ "Spark deal struck". The FA. 10 December 2020.
  56. ^ Tannenwald, Jonathan (1 September 2020). "Women's soccer leagues make big TV splash: NWSL with CBS, England's FAWSL with NBC Sports". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2020.
  57. ^ "ALEX MORGAN DEBUTS IN U.K. AS SOCCER TV COVERAGE EXPANDS IN U.S." Sportico. 1 October 2020. Retrieved 2020.

External links

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