The Football Association is confident women’s football will emerge from the coronavirus crisis in a healthy state, even though the cost of trying to finish this season was too severe for clubs to handle.
It was confirmed on Friday that Chelsea have been crowned champions of the Women’s Super League, with Liverpool relegated to the Championship, after the FA decided to use a basic points-per-game formula to determine the outcome of an incomplete campaign.
Emma Hayes’ side were trailing Manchester City by a point when the competition was suspended in light of the coronavirus pandemic on March 13, with the league leaders having played one game more than the London club. City will take the second Champions League spot as runners up. The resolution will also see Aston Villa promoted to the top-flight.
Founding members and two-time WSL winners Liverpool said it was “disappointed” by the FA's decision and believed the club was in a position to “meet all operational requirements” despite acknowledging that a return to play was deemed impractical.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented huge, ongoing challenges around the world, the majority far more important than football,” the club said in a statement. “The focus of our women’s team and staff since the beginning of the crisis was to be ready to return to WSL play when it was safe and proper to do so.”
Chelsea have now won three league titles under Hayes and the 43-year-old dedicated her side’s championship to key frontline workers during the pandemic, adding that football “pales into insignificance at a time like this."
In a statement on its website, Manchester City said it understood and accepted the FA’s method of determining the championship.
Despite the fact many clubs are releasing players and others face an uncertain future, the FA has not promised any extra funding to help clubs through the current crisis, unlike the game's governing bodies in both France and Italy.
The FA is adamant it will ensure all WSL and Championship clubs are in a strong enough financial position to start a new season in September, ring fencing the £7m it invests in the domestic game, while continuing to talk to the government and the Premier League about any additional support it might be able to offer.
“The next step for us is to work through the protocols and work out what the [financial] gap is in terms of what is required," said the FA's director of the professional game Kelly Simmons. "We’re talking to the football stakeholders and the government about making sure we come back at the beginning of September.
“The FA puts £7m a year into the Women’s Super League and Championship, and despite the fact we’re going through significant cuts - some £300m of cuts - the FA have ring fenced that funding to protect that investment. We reviewed the finances with all the clubs and the clubs are OK in that sense, and I know a number of clubs have come out and re-emphasised their commitment to the women’s game.
“We’re committed to coming back in September, we’re going to work through the costs of that and we’ll talk to the football stakeholders and the government to make sure we’re ready.
“Of course, we’re never going to turn down any support and offers of help but I’m really mindful that the Premier League’s funding, the clubs in the Premier League, as well as the EFL, are helping fund and deliver women’s professional football and I think we shouldn’t forget that.”
Simmons added that there had been almost "unanimous" support from clubs for the decision to curtail this season because the cost of adopting the same rigorous testing program that has allowed men's football to return was too high.