The shadow minister for sport believes that cancelling the Women’s Super League and Championship without a wider plan for the women’s game would be a “massive problem” that could push the sport “back into the wilderness”.
The top two leagues in women’s football are understood to be edging closer to cancellation, with the Football Association contacting all clubs earlier this week to ask for their views on whether to end the season and how to do it. It is understood that the joint WSL and Women’s Championship board would then convene to decide how to determine final placings.
Now Alison McGovern, Labour MP for Wirral South since 2010, has called for broadcasters and the FA to propose a longer-term plan that safeguards the future of women’s football regardless of whether the leagues continue this season.
“I think it’s a massive problem to just cancel without any wider approach on the future for women’s football,” McGovern told Telegraph Sport. “There have been some overhanging issues about the WSL, and the way clubs have handled the women’s game, that need looking at.
“My big worry is, at the moment, all the attention is on the Premier League and Project Restart. I understand why that is – there’s a commercial imperative – [but] I think that those involved, whether it’s the FA or the clubs, need to have a wider view. To say: ‘Unfortunately, we’re going to have to cancel the league this year,’ without a wider plan for the elite game, is a mistake, in my view.
“I don’t mind if it takes a few months to work this through. But it’s a massive missed opportunity to void or to cancel [the leagues] without that broader plan – so that players and supporters who really want to see the women’s game at the elite level succeed know what is happening, so that we’re not just going back into the wilderness.”
McGovern cited the gap in FA Cup prize money – the total prize fund for all women’s teams is just £309,355, compared to £30.25 million for men – and the need for improved support for players as areas of concern.
“I still don’t think that we are where we would want to be in terms of support for players,” she continued. “Funding is a key one, and that is in the gift of clubs and the FA. I would like further progress towards equalising funding from sporting bodies of all kinds.
“I’d like to hear from the BBC and others about what their concrete plans are over the next month, as we start to consider what the picture for sport looks like over the next year. How are they going to make sure that the women’s game plays a full and equal role in the country’s sporting life?”