Doncaster Belles won’t be in the top division next year. Not because of relegation, not because of liquidation, not even due to rebranding. They will not be in the top division next season simply because the FA has decided they will not be. In 2014 the FA have elected to further build upon the Women’s Super League with the introduction of a second tier FAWSL2. All current Super League teams have retained their seat at the top table for the new FAWSL1 except one, Doncaster Rovers Belles, who will be replaced by Manchester City.
The FA announced this decision via a news story on the FAWSL website on Friday 26th April. No fanfare, just a curt 120 word article which outlined the two divisional make-ups. There was no reasoning given (indeed a fortnight on there still has been none) just a token disclaimer “The FA will make no further comment until this process is complete.” Twenty two years of top-flight football ended via a press release that could have been written on a postcard.
If the manner of the announcement shows scant regard for the participants in the game which it is supposedly seeking to promote, the FA’s timing leaves even less to be desired. The FA put out this press release just one game in to the current Super League season. What does that leave Doncaster to play for? How are the Belles to be expected to retain players, coaches, supporters and vital sponsors when the entirety of the campaign they’ve spent all winter preparing for has already been rendered worthless? Is demoralising a whole team of professionals, and a whole club and community committed to your sport really the way to grow it?
A tweet from Belles England under 19s star Jess Sigsworth summed up the mood of the players; “Can’t put into words how upset I am. Feel like all this hard work is just for nothing!” In an interview with the BBC Belles manager John Buckley went further, proclaiming it “the most farcical thing I’ve ever heard.” Buckley continued; “Not many things knock the stuffing out of me, but this has… I just don’t understand the timing. It’s demotivating for the players.” When he spoke with the Doncaster Free Press Buckley pulled even fewer punches; “The timing of the FA’s decision is embarrassing. It’s completely unprofessional… I’m gobsmacked. The timing is just sickening, I’ve struggled to come to terms with it but we made sure we got all the players and staff together to discuss what to do next. The players have been psychologically battered by the news. My players are complete professionals and will still battle to the end, it’s just devastating for them and I’m pretty sure this decision has just come down to money.”http://popularstand.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/the-belles-toll-on-the-fas-relegation-of-the-doncaster-belles/http://popularstand.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/the-belles-toll-update-and-points-of-action/
Has this decision been given any press at all?
"Qualification for WSL2 is almost as weird. Leeds United, who can still win the existing second tier (the Women's Premier League, which draws to a close next month), will miss out, yet bottom-placed Barnet have been selected, along with a handful of teams from the regional divisions below. Most puzzlingly, Oxford United are in, despite currently lying third in the South West Combination Women's Football League.
The WPL and the lower leagues play during the winter, while the WSL is a summer league. Will the WSL2 teams now have a 15-month hiatus, apart from the FA cup? That'll be good for fan loyalty.
And we still have the absurd situation whereby the English representative in the champions' league doesn't play a league match for most of the competition's duration."
^From a fan forum.
What is going on. Doncaster Belles are the only club to have remained in the top flight throughout its existence. Joke.