Let’s just decide WSL with a Battle Royale


The FA have released another statement about the top two tiers of women’s football in England this afternoon and, in true form, have managed to say very little.

There was of course, the growing assumption that the season would be concluded without being finished naturally. And with the association having to make a clear declaration to UEFA today, the news has finally dropped but still we know very little about what will happen at both ends of the Women’s Super League. As well as whether or not Aston Villa will be promoted from the Championship.

For the last god knows how many weeks, players, coaches, pundits and fans have gone back and forth (and back and forth again) about how the league should be decided (rather than completed). Should points per game (PPG) be the decisive ruling, should there be relegation, and what of Villa? Last week, I said that Liverpool have no right to be saved for simply being Liverpool but it remains so hard to completely justify relegating them with the bottom three so very tight.

Throughout the discourse, there has been the feeling that if it was Bristol City or Birmingham City sat at the foot of the table, the discussion about the validity of relegation would be different. As said previously, Liverpool had improved with the signing of Rachel Furness. It’s conceivable they would have risen should the season have continued normally, but it’s equally as possible that Bristol’s signings would have seen them keep a foot ahead. So too Birmingham City who parted ways with their manager at the start of March.

Just like at the top, it’s not certain that any of the top three (and I say top three as there’s a 13 point gap between third and fourth) would have managed to see out their respective remaining games without surrendering a point here or there. Again, we can get bogged down in hypotheticals. But for how to conclude the season? Well…

A fight to the death! (Well, not quite)

Given how tight the top three are, as well as the bottom three, my personal proposal is a play-off. There are of course serious logistics to be taken into consideration but as each play-off would require just three matches, there is a feasibility to it. My suggestion is have all six teams tested (as we’ve been doing in men’s football) and then convene at a neutral location (such as St Georges Park), and play three matches over the course of a week.

There would, of course, need to be an urgency to both sets of matches with transfers and forward planning key as the one team would have to plan for a season in the second tier and two would have to plan for Champions League football.

The Villa problem

Whether or not a team is relegated from the WSL, one of the points that has repeatedly come up is whether or not Aston Villa should come up from the Championship, with some suggesting that if there’s no relegation, there should be no promotion. Although Villa weren’t home and dry in the Championship (six points clear with six to play), they had been the dominant force in the league, only having dropped two points all season. Not as proficient in front of goal as second-placed Sheffield United, the Villainesses had cracked the formula for how to win games this season.

Just like any WSL team in the top three, there is the argument that they could have remained perfect for the rest of the season but they could equally have dropped points – especially with a trip to New Ferens Park on the docket until the floods and Coronavirus outbreak.

My overriding feeling is that no matter how the WSL is sliced, not promoting from the Championship makes a mockery of the second tier. An odd number of games is neither here nor there and certainly nowhere need enough justification to decide the fate of teams on as we’ve endured with unbalanced leagues in the past.

From Villa’s first game of the season, when they came from two goals down to better the Blades, they’ve looked bound for the topflight. But it’s not just about Villa, had it been Sheffield United, Durham, London City Lionesses or anyone else in their position, pushing for promotion whilst balancing out all other commitments to be denied after such a strong season would be a slap in the face to women’s football everywhere in England. And so soon after the last slap in the face with the expunging of tier three down…


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