The FA Women’s Super League (WSL) returns next week for its biggest season yet.
For the first time there will be a second division, FA WSL 2, and 10 new clubs, along with promotion and relegation between tiers. All 18 FA WSL clubs will compete in the expanded FA WSL Continental Cup, which begins on 30 April.
Players and managers from all 18 clubs attended a season launch event in London on Wednesday (9 April).
The league, which is now in its fourth season, is the elite women’s football competition in England. This season will see Manchester City Women compete in FA WSL 1 for the first time while FA WSL 2 will be contested by Aston Villa, Doncaster Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall, Oxford United, Reading, Sunderland, Watford and Yeovil.
Last year the FA WSL culminated in a dramatic finish when Liverpool Ladies pipped Bristol Academy to the title on the final day of the season, with a 2 – 0 win.
England’s Gemma Bonner captained Liverpool Ladies during their title winning 2013 campaign. She said: “Winning the WSL last season was one of the best things you could wish for as a footballer and it’s something that the whole team wants to achieve again this season.
“No one wants to be in the relegation places and every team will want to get off to a good start, so we know our first game against Man City will be a tough one.
“The title is ours to defend. Teams know more about us now and they will all be looking to up their games against us. We’re determined to do well, we’re confident in our ability and can’t wait to get the season started.”
BT Sport is the FA WSL’s exclusive broadcast partner, showing 14 games live throughout the season, including the Continental Cup final, along with 17 WSL shows which will air on Tuesdays at 6.00pm. The opening week’s standout fixture, Liverpool Ladies v Manchester City Women, will be live on BT Sport on Thursday 17 April, from 7.00pm.
Kelly Simmons, director of national game and women’s football at the FA, said: “This is a hugely exciting moment for the women’s game. The establishment of a second division really demonstrates just what appetite there is from both clubs and supporters for a thriving, entertaining and successful league.
“Our commercial partners Continental Tyres, Nike, Vauxhall and BT Sport have been fundamental in supporting the transformation of women’s football into an exciting, semi-professional sport.
“Through our partnership with BT Sport and our radio partner BBC 5 Live Extra, our supporters and newcomers to the game will be able to enjoy live matches and highlights shows, and this platform will only help the future of our game.”
Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said “Football is one of the fastest growing sports for women in the UK and this season is an exciting time for BT Sport as the exclusive live broadcaster of the WSL.
“We want to raise the profile of the league and the women who play within it. We’ll be following them as they prepare for games, we want to be on the team bus, we want to be pitch-side, bringing you all the stories and excitement of the WSL.”
Fans will also be able to enjoy highlights on BT Sport’s WSL Show, along with simulcast coverage of live televised matches throughout the season for subscribers on BTSport.com and the BT Sport app.
BT Sport is one of the founding partners of a new commercial programme for women’s football 2014-2018, alongside Vauxhall, Nike and Continental Tyres.
BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra will offer live commentary throughout the 2014 FA WSL season, with its first live game on Wednesday 16 April, while the Women’s Football Show will air throughout the season on BBC Three.