After the conclusion of the Women’s Super League season in September, there seemed to be an opportunity for a fresh tournament to be designed, bridging the period between seasons. The FA seemed to oblige, introducing the inaugural Spring Series, in which the teams from both the WSL 1 and 2 play each other in a round-robin style format, with the winners of the respective leagues ultimately attaining the trophy. The tournament seems to provide an opportunity for players to maintain their fitness levels, whilst also enhancing their repertoires by playing in a pioneering tournament, ultimately boosting their credentials, and leading to further opportunities. With the tournament now underway, these suggestions seem to have been emphasised, laying the groundwork for future innovation in the women’s game as a result.
In England, the top level of women’s football is divided into two divisions and, similarly to the men’s game, promotions may be attained from the second tier via finishing in the top two positions. This tournament seems to have been inspired by the format of the league arrangement, dividing the teams into the aforementioned two divisions and utilising a similar round-robin fixture system, albeit with teams playing once rather than also playing reverse fixtures; as such, whilst producing an innovative tournament which may drive the sport forwards, the focus on familiarity may prove dividends, as the players may feel increased levels of comfort and thus may achieve further consistency.
The leaders of the Spring Series for WSL 1 are Liverpool and, as two-time champions of the WSL, they may be amongst the favourites to consolidate their position at the top. In attaining three victories from their opening four ties, and scoring 14 goals in the process, this suggestion may be echoed and, if they may continue to prioritise an attacking philosophy, whilst simultaneously utilising the width which new signing Jess Clarke provides, they may be able to ensure their place in the record books. Yet, other teams may also possess the necessary quality, and drive, to achieve victory, most notably reigning league champions Manchester City; boasting a smorgasbord of international regulars across the pitch, they seem to also possess the necessary credentials. The incentive of winning more silverware may only serve to increase their levels of motivation, and if they may replicate the form, which saw them achieve an invincible season prior to the commencement of the Series, they may add to their ever-expanding trophy cabinet.
In providing this tournament, the FA seem to be highlighting their desire to improve all aspects of the women’s game, ranging from elevating fitness levels to enhancing the public appeal. The competition itself seemed to originally arise from additional innovation, with an FA announcement stating alterations would lead to the season keeping in line with the traditional football calendar, rather than the currently implemented winter league system. Whilst this announcement may naturally claim the plaudits, providing an interim tournament when the necessity heightened may prove the FA’s drive further. The innovation showcased may ultimately lead to an enhancement of funding and support, pivotal factors in enabling all players to have the job full-time, a step closer to achieving equality to the men’s game.
The Series seems to be vital for both players and clubs as, whilst the players may improve their conditioning levels, the managers may utilise it to integrate new signings or philosophies into their team, and perfect them prior to the commencement of the full season. This may have increased importance after the withdrawal of Notts County, as this seemed to lead to an influx of skilled individuals available for selection. Yet, the majority of these players seem to have already found new clubs for which they may ply their trade, showcasing the vast array of proficiency the league boasts. This may have been the catalyst in the FA Cup final being hosted at Wembley, the third in history, and with an expected record crowd for a women’s football match, it seems the game may finally be being broadcast to the masses, enabling these women to be remembered as pioneers for their sport.
How may the FA continue to revolutionise women’s football in order for it to be considered on equal terms to the men’s game?