Sunderland Ladies geared for change as Women's Super League moves to new calendar

Sunderland Ladies manager Carlton Fairweather
Sunderland Ladies manager Carlton Fairweather
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The FA Women's Super League is to move to a new calendar from Autumn 2017, officials have announced.

The FA WSL will be played alongside the traditional football calendar - from September until May each season - from next year with FA chiefs eager to build on the "momentum" gained since the league was launched five years ago.

The reasoning behind the change in format from a summer calendar is to "increase player welfare, further grow and develop the league and attendances, address issues around fixture congestion and planning and provide the platform for a winning England team".

Carlton Fairweather's Sunderland Ladies side are currently seventh in FA WSL 1.

Officials have announced that in order to bridge the gap between the seasons next year there will be a one-off competition for each division, The FA WSL Spring Series, which will be played from February to May.

FA director of football participation and development Kelly Simmons said: "When we launched the FA WSL in 2011 it was the right decision to play it as a summer league, which has been demonstrated by the competitive, exciting football, growing attendances and player development.

"However, there are still a number of issues holding the league back, such as fixture scheduling and ground availability.

"We want to keep building on the momentum and growth of the league and we believe now is the right time to change the calendar.

"The move is designed to bring many benefits to the women’s game and we’ve worked closely with our clubs and other stakeholders in making this decision.

"Player welfare is the prime concern of clubs and for us and these changes will allow more structured rest and recovery time, while fixtures will be more regularly structured with less congestion.

"The FA is committed to investing in women’s football and aims to double participation and attendances by 2020, as well as creating the right environment for England to have the best chance of winning the 2023 World Cup and we believe that these changes will help us to further achieve these aims.

"This is a really exciting time for the women’s game and we will work alongside our clubs to ensure we support them in the transition, across areas such as contracts, marketing and fixtures to make sure that it proves a big success."

The FA WSL was originally launched as a summer league with eight teams. In 2014 a second division, FA WSL 2, was created and there are now 19 teams across the two tiers.

Following the current season, which runs until November, there is a FIFA international window after which the players will have a long break before pre-season in January.