Our September Board meeting was primarily devoted to a review of the Women’s Super League in the past season and what structure is best going forward.
It may be worth recapping the progress to this stage. Our overall strategy has been built around complementing the work being done at junior and youth level by also building the women’s game from the top down – establishing a senior competition which provides additional coverage and profile for the sport and also allows for young players with ambition to aim at playing at a higher level in Tasmania than existed previously. At the same time this was occurring there has been a restructure of youth girls’ football in southern Tasmania led by the various club technical directors in conjunction with Michael Edwards from FFT. This was part of the emerging pathway and allows clubs to establish players into their appropriate age group and competitive levels with maximum flexibility for clubs.
The original pathway was for a state-wide women’s competition to run in parallel to the northern and southern championships and this was achieved with a 7-team league in 2016. It certainly presented challenges with some teams playing up to 33 matches across both competitions but overall was judged a success with sufficient take-up from players and clubs to warrant offering a full-season of WSL in 2017, as per the original strategic plan.
In 2018, the WSL will again be a competition consisting of up to a maximum of 8 teams. There is no pre-determined split regarding northern and southern teams – the major mandatory criterion is that each club participating in the WSL will continue to be required to enter two distinct senior teams – one in the WSL and one in the Championship. Maintaining the integrity of the competition is extremely important and to that effect only clubs that can clearly demonstrate their ability to consistently field two teams will be considered, even if this means the competition in 2018 has less than 8 teams. We understand the difficulties while the women’s game is in this growth phase; the benefits of the work being undertaken at youth level have not yet been fully realised through increased numbers available for the senior leagues.
There will be less flexibility in 2018 and beyond regarding the movement of players between the two teams and it is imperative that clubs have enough players to adequately establish two distinct teams.
To support the growth of the league and to provide an incentive for clubs who do not gain a spot in the WSL for 2018, the Board of FFT have determined that promotion and relegation will be implemented during the 2018 season. The highest ranked non-WSL clubs in the northern and southern championship will play off on a home and away basis. The winner will then play the bottom team in the WSL at the end of the 2018 season and again this will be home and away with the winner of those two matches earning the right to participate in the WSL in 2019. This approach will continue in future years.
To further develop the sport for women, it is the Board’s intention that the state-wide competition will be re-branded at the start of the 2019 season and named the Women’s National Premier League Tasmania. Discussions have already occurred with FFA around this move and during the 2018 season there will be a further review to determine the standards that need to be met to fulfil the WNPL title.
To further assist with the establishment of clear pathways, the Board have confirmed that an under 18 competition will be offered for clubs in the south in 2018. This will serve to bridge the gap between senior youth and the WSL/Championship level and is intended to be on-going. In the north, we will continue to work with clubs around player numbers and also further support youth competitions which are principally run on a local basis. The goal is to create a sustainable structure of youth teams in the coming years to increase the playing numbers and strengthen the competition.
The growth of women’s football remains a key objective of the Board of FFT and our role is to put in place competition structures that allow and encourage the clubs to develop players and grow their numbers. We have driven an increase in the level of exposure of the women’s game and there is certainly more we can do in that area with stakeholder support. In partnership with clubs we strive to ensure that football for both females and males flourishes in the coming seasons.