WPL clubs set for kick-off

Players and clubs in the new-look FA Women’s Premier League (FA WPL) are geared up for the new season, which kicks off on Sunday.

The newly-formed league, comprised of 70 teams across six divisions, will get under way with teams in the top two regional divisions competing for promotion to The FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL), providing they meet off-field requirements.

The winners of the two divisions will face each other in a play-off match to decide which club can compete for entry.

Last season’s FA WPL Cup winners and Northern Premier League champions Sheffield FC will face Southern Premier League champions Coventry City in one of the opening weekend’s standout fixtures and excitement is growing for everyone involved in the leagues.

Sheffield manager Helen Mitchell said: “The start of any new football season is always exciting with all teams hoping that their pre-season preparations, new signings and new injection of enthusiasm will give them the chance to compete for honours this season.

“With the expanded and newly branded FA WPL, there’s perhaps a slightly different feel to the start of the season, especially with a place now open for promotion to The FA WSL.

“This of course means there is much more to play for this season, and I am sure the league will be even more competitive as a result.

“If you’re good enough, you should be afforded the opportunity to compete at the next level, so it’s great to see that pathway now opened up, and I am sure The FA WPL as a whole will benefit from that.”

Their opening-day opponents Coventry City, who play at the Ricoh Arena, were last season’s Southern champions but have moved to the Northern Division under the new league structure.

Captain Natasha Lynch said: “There are exciting times ahead for Coventry City Ladies, having the Ricoh Arena, which is a state of the art facility, as our home ground for the season ahead.

“Winning the Southern Premier League last season was an amazing achievement and we want to build on that.

“New challenges face us this season in the Northern Division which will allow us to play against local midlands rivals such as Sporting Club Albion and our match on Sunday should be a spectacular showcase for the women’s game.”

Southern Division side Tottenham Hotspur play Gillingham at Ware FC on Sunday.

Spurs boss Karen Hills added: “We are looking forward to another competitive season; pre-season has gone well for us. Nailing down a few new signings will add to our current squad and that will make for a healthy competition for places.”

Gosport Borough are one of the teams in the second tier, playing in South West Division One. Manager Dave Pickering said: “Having rapidly progressed through three tiers of the pyramid in as many years, we are now a small fish in a big pond.

“We are excited by the challenge the season will bring, it will be one of consolidation as we try to improve our structure within.”

The new FA WPL management committee chairman, Carol West, said: “The new FA WPL will offer new and exciting opportunities for our clubs in terms of development and progression, and marks a new chapter in the women’s game in this country.

“Division One clubs now benefit from being part of a league that has national recognition, something which the Combination Leagues didn’t always have.

“The former WPL clubs now have two things to play for that weren’t on offer before – the overall Championship title and the opportunity of promotion to The FA WSL.

“All these things add up to an exciting future and as our opening fixtures will show, our clubs will be more than ready to take up the challenge in ensuring that The FA WPL is worthy of being at the top of the women’s winter pyramid.”

The FA WPL is the third and fourth tier of the women’s football pyramid.

The FA WPL Cup begins on 31 August.

For more information about The FA WPL and full fixtures, please visit www.TheFA.com/WPL