FA director has this explanation for controversial call that ended Sunderland Ladies' promotion hopes
The FA’s director of the women’s professional game has defended the decision to settle the top-two tiers on a points-per-game formula, while Sunderland saw their results for the current campaign expunged.
The FA’s announcement on Friday confirmed that Sunderland Ladies’ promotion hopes were over, with next season’s Championship to be contested by 11 teams.
Aston Villa have won promotion to the WSL, despite having an identical record to Sunderland’s.
Melanie Reay’s side were 11 points clear of Derby County in second place at the time of postponement, and still had a game in hand.
Speaking after the decision was made, Simmons was asked to explain the difference in approach between the tiers.
She argued that there was alignment between the professional divisions on the one hand, and amateur divisions on the other.
“The professional game, similar to the men’s, is aligned around deciding the season on sporting outcome and issues around promotion and relegation and such,” Simmons said.
“The more amateur side of the game decided to null and void, so there’s consistency across the men’s and women’s football pyramid.Simmons also said that there was a ‘unanimous’ decision from tiers three to seven in recommending null and void, due to the disparity in games played within divisions.
She also said the need to decide on Champions League places meant this was not possible in the top tiers.
“What I would say, having sat on the women’s football conference calls with all of the leagues from Tier 3 and below, is they were unanimous due to a range of factors and they wanted to make an early decision for clarity,” Simmons said.
“Looking at the amount of games played — some hadn’t even played 50 percent — they were unanimous in their recommendation to the women’s football board that those leagues be null and void, whereas when we consulted with FA WSL and FA WC clubs, there was very little support for null and void.
“We also couldn’t null and void in relation to the UEFA Champions League where we had to use sporting performance from this season to decide the European spots. Consulting with the different sectors of the game is what led to different outcomes.”
Simmons did admit that there could be some promotions throughout the pyramid, in the case that some divisions are at risk of not having the numbers to compete.
That is unlikely to be the Championship, where the goal will be to make the numbers even by promoting two, and relegating one, next season.
“The women’s football board have to look at the entire women’s pyramid and, conscious the decision below was null and void, they set a policy by which people can only move outside of promotion and relegation through an application process if divisions are at risk from not having the numbers to compete,” Simmons said.
“We will operate with 11 next season and work with those 11 to get football back as quickly as we can, and at the end of next season we will revert back to two up to get those numbers.”