Impatience growing as FA still to decide on resumption of Women’s National League

The FA is facing criticism for the time it is taking them to decide the fate of Division One North, in which Leeds United Women compete, and the five other divisions which comprise the FA Women’s National League.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 5:45 am
Leeds United Women's head coach Dan O'Hearne and coach Martin Powell are still waiting to find out when the season will resume. A decision is expected next week. Picture: Steve Riding.

When the FAWNL shared the news that they were expecting the decision in a fortnight’s time, many fans of the game on social media were left wondering why there was such a delay in making a decision on a season resumption.

The comments refer to the consultation with clubs undertaken by the FA, for which the deadline passed at the end of January, three weeks before the government promised a return for grassroots football and six weeks before the decision is set to be released.

With so much time already lost to Covid-19 restrictions, league participants are disappointed that the FA have been reactive rather than anticipatory – taking the government’s announcement as a cue to ready plans rather than a trigger to set them in motion.

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FLASHBACK: Leeds United Women's Laura Bartup, far left, celebrates scoring the winner against Durham Cestria. Picture: Steve Riding.

There is a sense, though, of teams’ impatience to learn the inevitable, as reluctance to see two years’ work come to nothing is set against the glaring impracticality of season completion.

Starting in April and continuing uninterrupted, Leeds United Women could not complete a full season until August. With most players working nine-to-five jobs, week-night games are nigh-on impossible in the FAWNL – the Whites’ away fixture at Newcastle United, for instance, requires a 170-mile round trip – and so upping the pace of progress is not a workable solution.

The FA’s rescheduling of dates for the celebrated return of the Women’s FA Cup has proved controversial in this regard; the next round of ties will take place just six days after non-elite teams are permitted to train, causing concern over the risk of injuries, as well as the fairness of those teams facing elite squads whose activity has not been put on pause.

The scenario facing the FA is complex but not unprecedented.

This time last year, their decision to null and void the 2019-20 FAWNL season was criticised for being made too quickly and without proper debate.

The organisation listened and now, having considered the views of over 100 different women’s clubs, many teams believe their process is too lengthy.

One team holding their breath is Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Consistent form over the last two seasons suggests that Wolves have outgrown Division One Midlands, having been nine points clear when the 2019-20 season was voided and winning all six games of this broken term.

But for the FA to agree to movement between leagues now would likely offend those teams who were denied promotion last March, at which point the season was substantially nearer completion.

If advancement is off the cards, then what? Some clubs, like Swindon Town Women, are taking matters into their own hands in pursuit of competition. The Wiltshire side, who are third in Division One South West, have invited expressions of interest in a charity cup for local teams, pending the eagerly-awaited news on league resumption.

The FA will release their decision next week.

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