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Oldland Abbotonians Ladies managed to find a way to raise funds for their club during the lockdown - and put themselves through the pain barrier in doing it!
The South West League side came up with an idea which turned out to be very successful, a 1,000 mile challenge which involved the club's players.
"We wanted to think of some way that we could get some kilometres in that would keep the girls competitive," manager Steve Lavis told Women's Soccer Scene. "I suggested that maybe we could have some form of running competition where the girls ran a set distance individually, but against a team mate on certain nights so that we could make a league table up based on times.
"From there, the girls took the idea forward into maybe making it sponsored and it started off with us trying to do 1,000kms through June to raise funds for us. It quickly became evident that the girls would do that easily, so it switched to 1000 miles. That included running, walking and cycling.
"We did it with two days to spare and in fact, did just over 1,100 miles between everyone in June which was a fantastic effort. The commitment that the team showed in achieving this was matched by some of the donations we have had. People have been so generous and it has been quite incredible to see their generosity.
"We always find it difficult to attract sponsors for ourselves and the only funding we get is what we do ourselves. It is ironic that we have actually managed to secure a home kit sponsor for next season, so what we are planning to do with the funds is buy our own away kit for the first time ever with the NHS logo on the front as way of saying thank you to them. Once that is bought, then we may look at training equipment or even hoodies or tracksuits etc if we have enough left."
"During our end of season presentation, we were looking for a way to all keep connected and fit during lockdown," added captain Nicky Hoare.
"It was decided a team fitness challenge was the best way to do this and so the 1,000 miles in June was born! We set up a Strava group so we could easily track the miles and it became the perfect place to keep encouraging and challenging each other.
"As we thought we would struggle for sponsors this season we thought we would set up a fundraising page and have been absolutely blown away by the support of friends and family. The challenge was amazing for team morale and the money we have raised will enable us to buy our first ever away kit!
"I'm so proud of the team for the achievement - running in the heat, rain and hail and finding time between home schooling, working from home etc to get out on the roads! There have been some great personal achievements along the way with people running their first ever 10k and breaking all their PB's. Finally a big thank you to everyone who has supported us, it means so much to us and the club!"
Crawley Wasps have parted company with first team manager Paul Walker by mutual consent.
Assistant manager Dave Cole will lead the team through pre-season as interim first team manager. His role as the club's new Director of Football remains unaffected at present.
All other first team staff continue to work towards preparing the squad for the season ahead in the FA Women's National League Southern Premier Division.
Walker became first team manager in 2015, leading the club to back-to-back promotions in 2018 and 2019 and the Sussex Women's Challenge Cup in February 2020. He was also the club's chairman between June 2017 and June 2020.
The club has issued a statement saying: "The Crawley Wasps board expresses its gratitude to Paul for his hard work on behalf of the club, and for the success achieved during his time as manager. We wish him all the best for the future.
"We will be making no further comment at this time, but will issue a further update when a successor is appointed."
The women's football season in Scotland is due to get going in October.
Scottish Women's Football have issued the following statement, which also includes news of an enhanced broadcast agreement, on their website:
"Scottish Women's Football (SWF) is delighted to announce that the Scottish Building Society Scottish Women's Premier Leagues 1 & 2 (SWPL 1 & 2) and Championship Leagues will kick off on Sunday 18th October.
"This is pending the government guidance enabling this and the Scottish FA's current suspension on competitions being lifted. We are also delighted to announce an enhanced broadcast agreement with our long-term partners at BBC ALBA which will see us double the number of matches being broadcast live in the 2020/2021 season.
"The Scottish Women's Football season had only just begun when the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on all fixtures from 15th March. Since the postponement of all football, Scottish Women's Football (SWF) and the relevant committees have been in regular dialogue with clubs/leagues across the whole of the game to consult and identify a positive way forward. Following this consultation programme, SWF is pleased to advise that a revised performance calendar has been agreed by clubs and ratified accordingly, moving to a 2020/2021 playing schedule. As such, the 2020 season has been declared null and void and a new 2020/21 format has been confirmed. The member clubs accepted to the performance arm in the 2020 affiliation window will continue their involvement in their respective leagues in the new 20/21 schedule. Engagement is ongoing with clubs to determine the longer-term calendar for the performance arm of the game following the move to a more traditional calendar for 2020/2021, enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Scottish Building Society SWPL and Championship clubs will begin their league campaigns on Sunday 18th October, with all leagues concluding by 2nd May 2021. This ensures we are able to nominate Scotland's representatives to UEFA for the Champions League season 2021/22. A condensed League Cup competition will take place in May/June. We appreciate the unprecedented circumstances we are currently operating in and note the possibility of further disruption to the calendar, regionally and nationally, should restrictions be re-imposed as a result of COVID-19. The dates reserved for the League Cup competition will therefore be utilised to conclude the league competitions should this be necessary. Restrictions within the calendar, and the desire to build in contingencies, mean that there will not be a Scottish Cup competition in the 2020/2021 season. Our club survey concluded, by significant majority, that the preference in the circumstances was to deliver the league cup competition for the 2020/2021 season, where the format guaranteed more games against opposition of a similar calibre. Full fixture calendars will be released on Friday 21st August.
"FIFA transfer windows have been confirmed as 15th July - 6th October and a mid-season window provisionally scheduled for the month of January."
Scottish Women's Football Chair, Vivienne MacLaren said: "It was imperative that we continued to maintain the momentum generated prior to lockdown and we believe the new 20/21 schedule will allow us to do that. We'd like to thank all our key stakeholders for their commitment and involvement in our consultation discussions over the past 4 months which has led us to a positive outcome for the girls' and women's game."
Scottish Building Society confirmed their commitment to the SWPL in May by continuing their sponsorship of the league, irrespective of the impact of Covid-19. Kerra McKinnie, Marketing Director at Scottish Building Society said: "We have supported girls' and women's football in Scotland for three years and we are determined to maintain that relationship to ensure the SWPL are ready to go when the season resumes."
In addition to continued sponsorship, SWF's official broadcast partners, BBC ALBA, have also confirmed their commitment to women's football by providing an enhanced broadcast schedule to showcase the very best of the league.
Iseabail Mactaggart, Director of Multiplatform Content at MG ALBA confirmed "We will broadcast a further 6 games in addition to the outstanding matches we previously committed to. This takes us to 12 broadcast matches throughout the season. This reaffirms our commitment to growing an audience and providing a platform to showcase the very best of women's football in Scotland."
"SWF would like to thank all clubs, league representatives, relevant committee members and key stakeholders for their support and input during this challenging time. We look forward to further discussions with the youth and senior regional leagues in the coming weeks to identify the preferred competition calendars in youth and regional football."
Crawley Wasps have revamped their off-field set up as they begin their 30th year as a standalone all-female club.
The football committee is now an operations board, led by new chairman Jack Ayles, who will also head up a three-man executive board running a new limited company.
Joining Ayles on the exec board will be his father Gary - a former racing driver who co-owns Pease Pottage-based classic car logistics firm Bespoke Handling - and Kim Beasley, business director of Regency Security, who takes on the same role in a voluntary capacity at Wasps. Both have granddaughters who play in the club's youth section.
"I have brought Kim on board as he brings valuable business experience and will ensure we keep pace with our goals and objectives," chairman Ayles said.
Most of the new operations board will be made up of the former committee, with first team assistant manager Dave Cole (pictured) joining it as director of football and Ant Scott now heading the communications department.
The other members are Simon Pavey (director), Maz Graves (club secretary), Paola Heaton (financial director), James Laraman (commercial director), Alison Smith (welfare and safeguarding officer) and Dave Connor (head of youth).
Ayles added: "I'm delighted with the breadth of experience we have in key positions within the club.
"This is an unpredictable period as we navigate through the new normal, but we will all be working together to help the club fulfil its undoubted potential.
"To have been a standalone, all-female club for 30 years is something of which we can very proud, but we must also look to the future and set in place goals, objectives and plans for the longer term."
Photo - www.bendavidsonphotography.com
Chelsea FC Women are delighted to announce the signing of Canadian international Jessie Fleming on a three-year deal.
The 22-year-old joins from UCLA Bruins - a football programme at the University of California, Los Angeles - after agreeing her first professional contract which commits her to the club until the summer of 2023
The tenacious box-to-box midfielder spent four years at UCLA Bruins and in that time made 75 appearances and notched 25 goals while majoring in Materials Engineering and minoring in Environmental Science.
Fleming has represented her national team at Under-17s and Under-20s level before becoming the second-youngest player to ever play for Canada when she made her senior debut at the age of 15.
Since then Fleming has established herself as the playmaker in the heart of the Canadian midfield having earned herself 77 caps, scoring 10 goals so far.
The talented youngster was an integral part of the Canadian senior squad that won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and she competed at the Women's World Cup in 2015 and 2019. Last summer in France, Fleming played every minute of every game, she scored her first World Cup goal and was named the Player of the Match in Canada's 2-0 victory over New Zealand.
Upon signing for Chelsea Women, Fleming told the Chelsea FC website: "I knew I really wanted to play in the WSL, I think the league is doing really well right now and there is a ton of fantastic players in the league so that really excited me.
"For Chelsea it was the players here and I wanted to be in a challenging environment. Having conversations with Emma [Hayes] and learning a bit more about the team, I was just really excited about the environment and what it has to offer."
Individual accolades include being voted as Canada Under-20s Female Player of the Year in 2015, 2016, and 2017 and the Under-17s Female Player of the Year in 2014. Fleming was also named in the Best XI in the 2018 CONCACAF Women's Championships and was a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, which goes to the top college football player in the USA, in 2017 and 2019.
Chelsea FC Women manager Emma Hayes added: "Jessie is one of the top young players in the world, so for us to be able to sign her is a testament to the work that has been done here for a number of years. She chose Chelsea, this was her priority, her first choice and we were over the moon to get her."
After German midfielder Melanie Leupolz and winger Niamh Charles put pen to paper, Fleming becomes the third new addition to Hayes' squad, ahead of the 2020-21 Barclays Women's Super League season.
Chelsea have also been further boosted by the news that Beth England has committed her long term future by extending her contract to keep her at the club until 2024.
The new contract caps a fantastic 2019-20 season for the forward, who played a crucial part in our Double-winning season, finishing as Chelsea's top scorer with 21 goals in 24 outings. Her pace, power and finishing ability were hallmarks of her outstanding attacking play last term and the 26-year-old is understandably delighted with the news.
"It's means a lot to me, especially being at such a great club that Chelsea is," England told the Chelsea FC website. "I've spent a lot of time here already, so being able to extend that and hopefully kick on with what I've already achieved at this club is exciting."
General manager Paul Green added: "We're delighted to have extended Beth's contract, as she has been outstanding in the last 18 months, playing a big part in the team's success.
"We feel that she is now coming in to her peak as a player and look forward to seeing how she continues to develop for both club and country in the upcoming years."
Glasgow City are delighted to announce the signing of South African National Team captain, Janine van Wyk.
The central defender is the latest addition to the Scottish Champions and without doubt one of the biggest ever signings in Scottish Women's Football.
South Africa's most capped player of all time, van Wyk has amassed 170 caps for her nation, has led her team to two Olympic Games as well as last summer's FIFA Women's World Cup in France.
Commenting on putting pen to paper with City, Janine said: "I am extremely excited to start this new chapter in my football career with a football club that is known to be the best team in the Scottish top League. I look forward to playing in the UEFA Women's Champions League, win titles and most importantly continue to learn as much as I can about the insights of the game and hopefully add value to the squad with the experience I carry."
Glasgow City Head Coach, Scott Booth commented: "We are absolutely delighted to bring Janine van Wyk to our club. She has incredible experience and I feel this will be key for us this season. Janine captained her nation at the 2019 World Cup and is their record cap holder. I know that she will 100% lead by example and fit in to our already talented squad."
City Club Manager Laura Montgomery added: "If we are talking about players who are known across the world, Janine is in that category. Her record is incredible on and off the pitch in what she has done for girls and women's sport in her own country as well as in her promotion of equality. Her jersey is on display at the FIFA Museum next to the other top female players in the world, this is the calibre of player and individual that she is.
"At Glasgow City, we are all about championing women and girls and Janine very much fits into that mould. Her footballing CV is very impressive and we are delighted she has chosen to continue her journey with our club."
City have also secured American-born striker Krystyna Freda on loan from Cypriot Champions Apollon Ladies.
The 26-year-old prolific striker has been the top goalscorer in Cyprus for the last three seasons, scoring an unbelievable 245 goals in the process. Freda is also no stranger to finding the back of the net in the UEFA Women's Champions League (UWCL), scoring 13 times in the tournament so far over the past two seasons. This includes netting against City back in late 2018 when she scored for Somatio Barcelona at Petershill in the last 32 of the competition.
Last month, the forward was also named to the NCAA Division 1 Big South Conference Team of the Decade after excelling during her time at Winthrop University.
Without doubt the striker adds excellent firepower as Scott Booth's side prepare to face Wolfsburg in the Champions League quarter final in August.
Booth said: "Krystyna is a stand out striker. We're all looking forward to having her in our squad for the loan period. She is a player we've competed against previously so we all know how dangerous she can be. It's great news that this time she'll be playing in Glasgow City's colours."
On joining City, Freda commented: "I am so excited to be joining Glasgow City to help them in the UWCL finals tournament. Glasgow is a strong, amazing team that has proven that they are one of the best teams in Europe and I feel honoured to be a part of this next challenge with them."
The Football Association is pleased to confirm that it has received approval to conclude the last three rounds of the 2019-20 Women's FA Cup in the early part of the 2020-21 season, with the Final to be played at Wembley Stadium connected by EE on Saturday 31st October.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FA has been exploring various options to allow for the competition to be completed having reached the quarter final stage before the country went into lockdown.
While the decision was made to end the Barclays FA Women's Super League and FA Women's Championship campaigns last May in the best interests of the women's game, the hope has always been to complete the Women's FA Cup at the start of the new season and conclude the final three rounds.
An application was made to FIFA for special dispensation to complete the competition in the early stages of the 2020-21 season, with football's world governing body giving its approval.
Holders Manchester City are amongst seven clubs from the Barclays FA Women's Super League who remain in the competition, with Leicester City the sole representative from the FA Women's Championship.
The quarter finals will be played three weeks into the new season, on the weekend of 26-27 September, with the semi final due to follow the same week, on 30 September - 1 October. As has been the tradition since 2015, the Final will be played at Wembley Stadium on 31 October - kick-off time to be announced in due course.
Kelly Simmons, The FA's Director of the Women's Professional Game, said: "A significant amount of work has been going on behind the scenes to ensure The Women's FA Cup can be completed and I am delighted that we have received the necessary approval for its conclusion.
"The Women's FA Cup is a showpiece fixture in the football calendar and because of that there was huge appetite within The FA for the three remaining rounds to be played. We welcome the opportunity for a champion to be crowned at Wembley Stadium at the end of October."
With government guidelines still uncertain as to the level of fans permissible in stadiums, The FA will refund all ticket holders for the postponed final in May.
For those with tickets, refunds will be processed automatically to all ticket buyers within 14 working days. Refunds will only be made to the lead booker and onto the original payment card used. Ticket holders do not need to contact The FA directly in this instance to request a refund.
The FA will continue to follow government guidance on fans returning to stadiums. A further announcement will be made closer to the Wembley final on any ticketing arrangements and the opportunity to rebook, should rules change on football being played behind closed doors.
The quarter final fixtures:
Brighton & Hove Albion v Birmingham City
Everton v Chelsea
Arsenal v Tottenham
Leicester City v Manchester City
Sport England has awarded £1m of National Lottery funding to England's hosting of the UEFA European Women's Championship in 2022 (WEURO2022) with a view to increasing the number of adult women playing football in England.
In keeping with Sport England's continued commitment to women's and girls' sport, the investment will support the development of local plans within the proposed EURO 22 host cities: London, Trafford, Manchester, Sheffield, Rotherham, Milton Keynes, Wigan & Leigh, Brighton & Hove and Southampton.
Eight Host City Legacy Groups have been established with key partners from Football, Local Authorities, Active Partnerships, Education, Public Health and Culture coming together to work towards a common EURO 2022 Legacy Plan. These groups will be awarded approximately £100,000 to create a recreational women's football offer in each of the nine host cities - currently being reconfirmed to deliver the tournament - so that when EURO 22 arrives the right opportunities and structures are in place to capitalise on anticipated interest.
The offer will include female activation in the regions to support new playing opportunities, with this being led by female ‘Playmakers' following The FA's new entry level course aimed at getting more volunteers into grassroots football in a safe and welcoming way.
The investment will also pilot a new programme in each of the host cities to explore whether parents and carers attending The FA's Wildcats sessions, aimed at girls aged 5-11, have a desire to take part in adult sessions that would run simultaneously alongside the Wildcats sessions.
Sport England's EURO 2022 project aims to capitalise on the proven impact of major events on grassroots interest in the game, with research undertaken during and after the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 revealing significant rises in women playing following the tournament.
In the younger age brackets, 31.0% of girls aged 12-15 were regularly playing football after the 2019 Women's World Cup compared to 26.0% before, with the pattern continuing in the 16 - 24 age bracket (35.0% after WWC compared to 27.8% prior) and the 25 - 34 age bracket (31.3% to 26.5%). Overall, 460,000 more women aged 25+ were playing football after the World Cup than before, the biggest increase of any age group.
The UEFA Women's EURO was initially due to be played in summer 2021, however following the COVID-19 pandemic the tournament was rescheduled and will now take place from 6-31 July 2022
Phil Smith, Sport England Director of Sport, said: "EURO 22 will be a significant and exciting event, and we are delighted to be working with The FA to use it to grow the women's game. We believe a ‘place-based approach' - working with local stakeholders to develop a recreational football programme for the right place, at the right time - can be instrumental in making this happen and ultimately developing women's and girls' football in England.
"We know from data collected during the 2019 Women's World Cup that there was a significant increase in the number of women playing football both during and after the tournament.
"For EURO 22 Sport England and The FA are trying to get ahead of the game. We know the Tournament will excite the fans and the public, so we want to use that excitement to support even more women and girls to start playing."
Louise Gear, The FA's Head of Women's Football Development, said: "UEFA Women's EURO 2022 is set to be a record-breaking tournament, and one which offers us huge opportunity both to continue building the profile of women's football and to inspire more women and girls to get involved in the game.
"As we approach two years to go until the showpiece final takes place at Wembley Stadium, we are delighted that Sport England has announced this significant investment. By supporting the development plans of each of our nine dedicated host cities, we hope that we can build on the energy and excitement that comes from a home EURO to turn these regions into hubs for increased activity and opportunity in the wake of the tournament.
"We look forward to working with Sport England and our eight Host City Legacy Groups to ensure that this investment translates into real playing opportunities for thousands of women, in turn driving participation in the game and benefitting local communities long after the tournament has concluded."
Following The FA Council ratification of the decision of the FA Women's Football Board and Women's Football Conference to null and void the 2019-20 season for tiers 3 to 7 of the Women's Pyramid of Football, The FA has set out an update on those tiers ahead of the 2020-21 season.
At a recent meeting of the FA Women's Football Board concern was expressed that some leagues within the Women's Pyramid of Football may have finished the 2019-20 season significantly below the standard number of teams which, in some cases, was likely to impact upon, and compromise, their ability to run a viable competition for the 2020-21 season.
As a result, The FA sanctioned team movement where the number of teams remaining in a division was considered too low for the league programme to run effectively and may, as a result, have impacted negatively on both its participating clubs and the Women's Pyramid as a whole.
All leagues from Tier 3-6 were able to apply for additional teams, with the decision to grant club movement made based on the following numbers:
* Any 12-team division which is running at 9 or less teams
* Any 10-team division which is running at 7 or less teams
Applications to fill any vacancies were open to teams in leagues which feed directly into the division with a vacancy and were assessed on the following key criteria:
* Club Structure
* Off-field administration
* On-field playing record
Movement only took place where absolutely necessary to ensure the health of the Pyramid for the 2020-21 season. As a result, 15 clubs have been moved:
North East Regional Women's Football League Premier:
Alnwick Town LFC
Sheffield Wednesday LFC
North East Regional Women's Football League Division 1 North:
Bishop Auckland LFC
West Allotment Celtic LFC
North East Regional Women's Football League Division 1 South:
Farsley Celtic Juniors LFC
Millmoor Juniors LFC
Harrogate Town FC Ladies Development
North West Women's Regional League Division 1 South:
Runcorn Linnets FC Ladies
East Midlands Women's Regional Football League Division 1 North:
Sherwood FC Women
Grimsby Town FC Women
East Midlands Women's Regional Football League Division 1 South:
Coalville Town Ravenettes LFC
AFC Leicester Girls & Ladies FC
West Midlands Regional Women's Football League Division 1 North:
Tamworth FC Ladies
South West Regional Women's Football League Western Division:
AFC St Austell Ladies
Clubs that made an application that was unsuccessful were given 14 days to appeal the decision.
In addition, following thorough consideration, the FA Women's Football Board has made a decision to allow all playing records from the 2019-2020 season to remain in place, despite having to bring the respective campaigns to an early close. This covers player statistics, such as goals and appearances, alongside team records and allows the achievements of players and teams throughout the 2019-20 season, prior to the impact of COVID-19, to be recognised.
Preparations are now well underway for the 2020-2021 season, with more information in due course on key dates and fixtures.
Crawley Wasps LFC have refreshed their leadership team ahead of the club's 30th anniversary year, with Jack Ayles taking over as chairman.
Paul Walker stepped down at Tuesday's AGM after three years in the role, in order to focus fully on managing the first team.
Ayles, previously Wasps' head of youth, is relishing the chance to lead the third-tier club, who ended the curtailed 2019-20 season top of the FA Women's National League Southern Premier Division.
He said: "I'd like to thank Paul for his hard work as chairman over the last few years, and everything he has achieved in that role.
"Every club is facing stark challenges at this time, and we are no different. But we will work harder than ever off the pitch to deliver a sustainable future post-Covid, while retaining our ambitious long-term goals.
"I'm looking forward to working with the committee, players, parents, sponsors and all those who have helped the club to where it is now."
Simon Pavey stays as vice-chairman but has resigned as reserve team manager due to increasing work commitments, with the club taking applications for that role.
Accountant Paola Heaton and businessman Gary Ayles further bolster the experience of the club's committee. Heaton becomes treasurer, while Ayles assumes the new role of head of strategic business development.
Dave Connor is the new head of youth and Ashley Wright takes over as youth fixtures secretary from Mark Graves. Maz Graves (secretary), Alison Smith (welfare and safeguarding officer), James Laraman (commercial manager) and Mick Gainsford (training base groundsman) remain in the post.
Walker said: "It's been both a pleasure and a privilege to have been chairman for the past three years and I am very proud of the progress made both on and off the field.
"The time is now right for a planned succession and for me to concentrate on my job with the first team, continuing the journey in pursuit of our footballing ambitions.
"I have no doubt the club will be well served under Jack's leadership and that he will bring many important personal qualities to the role."
This week, The FA reviews The Gameplan for Growth's ongoing journey for England teams to achieve consistent success on the world stage.
• Build a sustainable and successful high-performance system
• Build a world-class talent pipeline
• Ready to win 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup
• Within top three countries across all age groups
The creation of the...
• Lioness Player Pathway - a clear and defined pathway through development teams to the Seniors
• England Women's Blueprint for Success across all stages of the pathway
• Women's Talent ID Strategy - helping identify the country's most talented players
Senior team achievements:
• FIFA Women's World Cup Semi-Finalists 2019
• SheBelieves Cup Winners 2019
• Olympic Qualification secured for 2021
• Highest ever FIFA world ranking - 2nd [as at March2018]
• England awarded hosting rights for UEFA EURO 2021 [now 2022]
• Lucy Bronze voted BallonD'Or runner-up 2019 and BBC Women's Footballer of the Year 2018 & 2020
Development team achievements:
• WU20s FIFA World Cup bronze medalists in 2018
• Six U20 bronze medalists from 2018 in 2020 SheBelieves Cup squad
• Consistently qualifying for UEFA EURO age-group tournaments finals
• WU19s - Fifth at 2017 EURO, Sixth at 2019
• WU17s - Sixth in 2017 EURO, Fourth in 2018 & Fifth in 2019
Kay Cossington,The FA's Head of Women's Technical Development, commented: "My own coaching career started at West Ham United after many years of playing for the club. You could suggest that I fell into coaching when I helped deliver some training sessions after our manager's departure. It was at this point that my passion for coaching and performance began. I found a feeling inside me that I had never felt before, a drive to continuously improve performance and preparation.
I transferred across the Thames to become Millwall Lionesses Head Coach and Technical Director and it was here that I learnt some of my biggest lessons and enjoyed working with some exceptional people. There were difficult and challenging circumstances, but I saw first-hand the power of football and how it could change the lives of my players and the community.
Whether it was a win at the weekend, delivering football initiatives in the estates of Lewisham and Southwark, two of the most deprived London boroughs, or supporting football initiatives in Grenada, football could drive positive change.
I have been with The FA for now over 15 years, spending more than a decade coaching various England development teams and then moving into the role of Head of Women's Player Development and Talent in 2017,subsequently becoming Head of Women's Technical Development in 2018 leading our national teams and all technical aspects across the women's game.
I have been involved with The Gameplan for Growth strategy from the earliest stages, with my focus specifically on three significant creations; a clear and defined pathway through national development teams to the Seniors, an inclusive women's Talent ID Strategy and the England Women's Blueprint for Success. All have now been established with the ultimate objective to produce England players who can compete and achieve success on the world stage for our senior team.
Before the implementation phase of these three projects began, I was keen to dig deeper into the history of women's football. I wanted to learn more about the journey that the game has come on and the key pioneers who have taken the game to where it is now and had provided me with the opportunities I have today. This exercise was crucial to provide more depth and meaning to the delivery of the strategy.
As custodians of the women's game in England we felt that we needed a strong sense of identity and a deeper understanding of what we are protecting and nurturing. We needed to identify our story. This was one of those most humbling experiences in my career and has helped shape and inform the work that we now deliver across England Women's national teams, building our identity and team culture.
Respect and gratitude for the pioneers of the game underpins everything we're trying to achieve. After two years of strategic planning, our efforts began to come to fruition, as we launched the new edition of the Lioness Player Pathway and the England Women's Blueprint for Success, both working simultaneously alongside the emerging women's Talent ID Strategy. In the summer of 2018, we watched our WU20s squad perform magnificently in France at the FIFA Women's U20 World Cup to secure a bronze medal. We know that we are working from strong foundations, with talented players, and it was now time for us to take this to another level.
The Lioness Player Pathway - established with Sport England - is a supplementary programme supporting players in our development teams, with the aim of transforming potential into performance. It supports players through their journey with England from U14 to seniors and ensures appropriate opportunities are in place to help players to fulfil their potential and succeed. The needs of the player are at the very heart of the delivery, and there is an holistic approach to player development ensuring that parents, carers and coaches are integrated into the support.
The emerging women's Talent ID Strategy works alongside the Lioness Player Pathway, driving the selection and identification process for all national teams. Our teams are broken into two distinct phases of Youth Development (WU15-WU17), and Professional Development (WU18-WU21), with the Lionesses at the top of the pyramid.
Integral to the inclusiveness of the pathway has been the collaboration and partnership with the EFL Trust. The programme was initiated to provide every talented girl in England the opportunity to access and enter the Lioness Talent Pathway. Through the existing community activities of selected Club Community Organisations (CCOs) girls are identified and referred to the pathway.
In August 2019 we launched our first ever England Women's Blueprint for Success, delivered throughout all Women's National Teams. This is an invaluable piece of the jigsaw. Identifying a defined playing, coaching and operating philosophy at women's national team level is vital if players are to progress seamlessly through the pathway. Having a bespoke curriculum of learning alongside our England DNA is imperative to produce female players who can compete and win on the world stage. This document also outlines our culture and values when developing our players and has a strong connection with our identity.
This single document defines the processes, structures and support required for each age and stage of the pathway across five pillars of delivery:
• Who We Are - The identity, mentality, purpose and culture of England teams
• How We Play - The philosophy for national teams determining the England style of play and playing principles
• How We Coach & Support - The framework for a multi-disciplinary workforce to plan, implement and review our work with players and teams
• How We Operate - The way in which we work to support England Teams
• Talent Management - The talent management approach for our players and teams
The Blueprint provides clarity in each of these areas and provides a clear framework to enable us to best support our players and keep us united in our mission. The togetherness and team spirit shown through the construction of the blueprint has been exceptional. The staff feel proud and energised by what they are achieving and the legacy in which they will be a part of.
The Lioness Player Pathway and Blueprint for Success provide a clear mission statement for our workforce about what we want to achieve, and I'm delighted that it has been met with resounding commitment and passion. In the 20 years I have spent in women's football, this is the first time that we have built and created a system that is unique to the women's game and belongs to us. It is important for our work to be complimented by a strong high-performance system within the domestic game and you will hear more on that next week, when we focus on the development of the women's professional game and the Barclays FA WSL.
We're still just a year into the implementation of this work and we need to be realistic. This is a four-year project and there is still much more work to be done to drive it forward and improve, with our long-term goal of the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2023. With a team so hungry for success, I am confident that we will be reaping the rewards when the tournament arrives."
The full report and case studies can be seen on our blog site at https://wss-blog.com/gameplan-for-growth-review-england-teams/
Manchester City Football Club is delighted to announce that Jill Scott has agreed a two-year contract extension and will combine her playing role with a position as a coach at Manchester City Women.
The 33-year-old has been on the books of the Club since January 2014, having started her career with her hometown side of Sunderland before seven years with Everton, and is now regarded as one of the stalwarts of the women's game.
An integral figure for Manchester City Women ever since her arrival, the industrious and popular midfielder has made 167 appearances in all competitions so far, scoring 24 goals. She was also a vital player for City as the team secured three Continental Cups, two FA Women's Cups and one Barclays FA Women's Super League title in six years.
Her dedication to the game was recognised meanwhile in late 2019 as she was awarded an MBE in the 2020 New Year Honours List for her services to women's football.
On the international scene, Scott boasts 149 caps for England since her debut in 2006 - a statistic which makes her the current Lionesses squad's most-capped player, just 23 games behind record appearance holder Fara Williams.
Ahead of the upcoming 2020-21 Barclays FA Women's Super League season, City's No.8 has agreed a new contract with the Club - one which will see her figure as a player-coach until at least the summer of 2022.
Scott will work alongside newly appointed Manchester City Women Head Coach, Gareth Taylor, and assistant manager Alan Mahon.
Speaking about her extension and dual-role, Scott said: "It feels fantastic to have everything sorted and to know that I'm going to be at the Club for the next two years is something I'm really looking forward to.
"Although I've been named as a player-coach, I want to reiterate that I'm a player first and foremost - I still want to play for this team and achieve success.
"It's been a journey from the beginning - six years - and every year, there has been a new chapter to the story and I've enjoyed every single part of it.
"I'm so excited to continue that journey. Coaching might bring new aspects for me, but it's about working hard on the pitch and putting in the hours off it, trying to grow my knowledge of the game to help the team in any way I can."
Head Coach Taylor added: "I'm sure I speak on behalf of everybody at the Club when I say that I'm absolutely thrilled to have Jill not only sign a new contract, but also begin her professional coaching journey here at Manchester City.
"She is without doubt a true ambassador for the women's game and we are extremely fortunate to have her with us.
"She still has a lot to give out there on the pitch as a player, but alongside that, myself and our staff are really looking forward to helping her with her coaching education as much as we possibly can."
As part of their ongoing campaign with Refuge, Chelsea FC will be making a further contribution to supporting women and children experiencing domestic abuse during the current coronavirus pandemic.
The prize money for winning the 2019-20 Barclays FA Women's Super League title is being donated to the charity.
It was announced earlier this month that Chelsea had secured the WSL title, based on a points-per-game basis. Emma Hayes and her squad were unbeaten throughout the season and had defeated title rivals in head-to-head games.
The prize for winning the Super League is £100,000 and the donation to Refuge, which was agreed by Chelsea Football Club and the Chelsea FC Women's team, continues Chelsea's significant support for the charity that began in April.
Reports indicate the current Covid-19 crisis has led to an increase in domestic abuse incidents due to the periods of isolation and lockdown. UK charity Refuge, the country's largest single provider of domestic abuse services, provides specialist, confidential support to women experiencing domestic abuse. Chelsea Women are proud to have been at the forefront of promoting the club's support for Refuge.
"It's a charity that's close to the hearts and minds of the Women's team, and is very important to our owner Mr Abramovich and everyone at the club," Emma Hayes confirms. "It makes me proud our club is supporting those less fortunate in times of need.
"Up until now our involvement was about supporting the campaign publicly with a call to action but we all wanted to do more than that and if donating our prize money can ease some of the concerns and worries people have then it's the least we can do.
"It's an important message. It's a campaign that's really dear to us and the best way we can demonstrate our support further is by committing our prize money towards it and helping those in need."
Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said: "We are incredibly grateful to Chelsea Women. Refuge has seen a huge increase in demand to its Helpline and website services during Covid-19 which has shone a light on the thousands of women who need our support across the country right now.
"We are incredibly grateful to Chelsea Women for not only shining a light on domestic abuse, but also supporting us with a significant financial commitment - this is an incredible gesture. Every penny we raise helps Refuge to provide life-saving and life-changing specialist services.
"The Covid-19 crisis has placed a huge financial strain on domestic abuse services and the generous support of Chelsea Women will help Refuge to ensure that no woman or child is turned away from safety."
The FA Board has reached a majority decision to decide the 2019-20 Barclays FA Women's Super League and FA Women's Championship on a basic point-per-game [PPG] basis, with promotion and relegation determined on sporting merit.
As a result, The FA Board has today confirmed the decision to award the 2019-20 Barclays FA Women's Super League title to Chelsea FC Women, and to award the 2019-20 FA Women's Championship title to Aston Villa Women FC.
In addition, Chelsea FC Women and Manchester City Women FC will be nominated as the two English clubs to qualify for the 2020-21 UEFA Women's Champions League competition, having finished in the top two places of the 2019-20 Barclays FA Women's Super League season.
The final team positions across both leagues also confirmed that Aston Villa Women FC would be promoted to the Barclays FA Women's Super League for the 2020-21 season, and that Liverpool FC Women would be relegated to the FA Women's Championship for the 2020-21 season. As the 2019-20 results were expunged between Tier 3 to Tier 7 of the women's pyramid, there will be no relegation or promotion between the FA Women's Championship and Tier 3 this season.
All decisions were made and finalised by The FA Board - and were based on the most appropriate sporting outcome for the 2019-20 season. The FA Board considered and analysed all of the recommendations made to them by the FA Women's Super League & FA Women's Championship Board, which were collated after full and thorough consultation process with the clubs.
Kelly Simmons, FA Director of the Women's Professional Game, said: "Firstly, I would like to thank the clubs for their ongoing collaboration and support throughout this period. They have played a crucial role in helping to shape the decision-making process, with the welfare of the players and clubs first and foremost.
"I would also like to congratulate the players, coaches and staff of Chelsea and Aston Villa. Although the 2019-20 season has been prematurely curtailed, it has been a hard-fought campaign and their success is well deserved, with the outcome based on sporting merit.
"Women's football has made huge strides in recent years, and The FA has been at the forefront of investment and support to help grow women's football at every level of the game. Our commitment to the women's game is unwavering and we will continue to work closely with the clubs to ensure we come back even stronger for the 2020-21 campaign."
The FA will now work with the clubs and stakeholders across football to plan for next season and they aim to announce the target start dates for the 2020-21 campaign soon.
The resolution of the 2019-20 Women's FA Cup, which is at the Quarter Final stage, is still under review and the FA Women's Board will meet to discuss the matter later this month. a further update on the status of the 2019-20 Women's FA Cup will be issued in due course.
The full statement by Kelly Simmons can be viewed on our new blog at https://wss-blog.com/chelsea-and-aston-villa-declared-champions/
Manchester City Football Club is delighted to announce that Gareth Taylor has agreed a three-year deal to become the new Head Coach of Manchester City Women.
The 47-year-old has led City's Under-18s for the past three seasons, having previously overseen our Under-16s.
Taylor succeeds Nick Cushing, who also started his coaching career in City's Academy before spending six trophy-laden years with Manchester City Women ahead of his recent switch to New York City FC.
A striker during his playing days, the former Wales international boasts almost 650 appearances in all competitions. Achieving successive promotions during his time at Maine Road, Taylor featured 55 times for City between 1998 and 2001, including the Club's famous Division Two Play-off Final win over Gillingham in 1999.
Hanging up his boots at Wrexham in 2011, he joined the Cityzens in a coaching capacity soon after and has remained within the City Football Group ever since, helping to develop the fledgling careers of many young players.
After five years of overseeing the Club's Under-16s, Taylor made the switch to City's Under-18s in the summer of 2017 and led the team to successive Premier League U18 Cup victories in 2019 and 2020. Upon the curtailment of the 2019/20 campaign, Taylor's team were in the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup and also sat 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League U18 North table.
Following the recent conclusion of the Barclays FA Women's Super League season, Taylor will start his new role with immediate effect and will be assisted by Alan Mahon who held the reins on a temporary basis earlier this year.
Speaking about his new role, Taylor said: "I'm absolutely delighted to have joined Manchester City Women and I'm extremely excited about the challenge ahead with a very talented group of players and staff who have enjoyed a lot of success in recent years.
"I'm really honoured to have been appointed to this role and I can't wait to get started with our preparations for another thrilling and competitive Barclays FA WSL season in 2020-21.
"I've been very fortunate to have worked with some great people within Manchester City and the Club's Academy so far, but I'm absolutely relishing my new role within City Football Group and I'll be giving everything I have to continue Manchester City's success and growth in the women's game."
Head of Women's Football Gavin Makel added: "I'm delighted to welcome Gareth into the role of Manchester City Women's Head Coach.
"Over the last few years, I have been fortunate enough to see first hand the qualities that Gareth possesses. Not only in terms of his abilities as a coach who develops individuals, but also in the way that he leads, whilst exuberating the values and ethos that we hold dear as a Club.
"I am looking forward to working with Gareth as we enter this new era for the women's team in which I am confident that we can continue to build upon the successes that we have had over the last six years.
"I would also like to add my thanks to Alan Mahon who stepped up in light of Nick's departure and who continues to be an integral part of our operation."
During May and June, the FA will review the impact of The Gameplan for Growth strategy on the women's and girls' game.
Launched in March 2017, the strategy pledged to tackle ambitious targets to double participation [by doubling the number of affiliated teams], double the game's fan base and create a high-performance system and world-class talent pipeline for England teams to achieve consistent success on the world stage. After four seasons the strategy is now concluding, and in the coming months The FA will outline its continued support for women's and girls' football with the launch of the 2020-2024 strategy.
This week reviews The Gameplan for Growth's positive impact on the recruitment and development of coaching in the women's and girls' game.
The Gameplan for Growth committed to ‘increase the number and diversity of women coaching the sport at all levels' by developing The FA's coaching structure.
• 5,180 new female coaches from 2017 to 2020
• Collaboration with Sport England to support 204 female coaches with bursaries to improve access to UEFA B, A and Pro licence qualifications
• Doubling the number of female coaches holding a UEFA A licence from 41 in 2017 to 82 in 2020
• The introduction of Coach Development Officers to provide one-to-one support - engaging with 2,487 male and female coaches working at grassroots and talent pathway level
• One to one support for 148 male and female coaches at Tiers 1-3 of the women's game and Regional Talent Clubs [RTCs] via the introduction of Women's National Coach Developers
• 34,581 coaching qualifications for female coaches from levels 1 to 5 - an 18% increase from 2017
• 333% increase in female head coaches/managers in the Barclays FA WSL and FA Women's Championship, from three in 2016/17 to 13 in 2019/20
• 67% increase in female head coaches with England's national teams, from three in 2016/17 to five in 2019/20
Audrey Cooper, The FA's Head of Women's Coach Development, commented: "My arrival at The FA from UK Sport in March 2017, coincided with the launch of The Gameplan for Growth and an ambition from my new employers to ‘increase the number and diversity of women coaching in the sport at all levels'.
"We recognised improving coaching underpins the strategy's three big goals to double participation, double the fanbase and to achieve consistent success on the world stage. Better coaching is fundamental to facilitating better player experiences at grassroots and driving higher playing standards in the pro game, thus making it a better, more technical and tactical product to watch.
"The complex challenge put simply was to attract more women into coaching, open the doors for talented female coaches to work at the highest level and provide a better support structure to nurture and develop all coaches [male and female] who were already involved in the women's and girls' game. Growing coaching capability beyond qualifications was fundamental.
"I faced similar challenges at UK Sport and Volleyball England but football's scale and numbers were far greater. Prior to joining The FA, I transitioned from Head Coach of Team GB women's indoor volleyball team at London 2012, to Technical and Talent Director at Volleyball England and then Coaching Team Lead at UK Sport, where I was responsible for the strategic design, operational planning and delivery of Olympic and Paralympic coach development programmes. A major part of my role was to know what our elite coaches were experiencing and the support they required, whilst also understanding the journey grassroots coaches were on.
"The backdrop to our work at The FA was the rapid growth in the women's game. In 2017, the top three tiers of the women's football pyramid looked very different and full-time coaching positions were few and far between. Three years have seen us transition to a professional environment with the introduction of the Barclays FA Women's Super League and increased standards and opportunities in the FA Women's Championship and FA Women's National Leagues. For the leagues and players to thrive we needed to take our coaches on a similar journey of development and increased professionalism, helping coaches consider how they want to coach, manage and lead.
"Our strategic focus was to recruit, retain, develop and deploy more coaches. However, we knew a ‘one size fits all' approach would not cater for the breadth of coaches across the whole game. The differing needs and demands on a coach at grassroots and at an elite level were considered. Their learning on and off the grass became our core philosophy.
"As a result, we have developed a range of bespoke coach support, tailoring the content and delivery specifically for coaching in the female game. For the first time, really exploring and acknowledging the similarities and differences of the women's game and how that impacts the skills, attributes and needs of the coaches and players. We have combined this activity with three other core strands; reinforcing the ‘brilliant basics' of coaching, clear signposting to qualifications, and proactively identifying and nurturing talented coaches."
AFC Fylde have announced that they have reversed their decision to disband their women's team.
It had previously been announced at the end of April that the team, which plays in the Northern Premier Division of the FA Women's National League, would fold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the team will now be carrying on in the third tier of the women's pyramid, albeit with a new manager as Conrad Prendergast will be moving to a role with the club's academy.
Therefore, assistant manager Kim Turner will step up to take charge of the team along with club captain Danielle Young. The women's team will play their home games at AFC Fylde's former home at Kellamergh Park.
At the time of the National League season being declared null and void, Fylde were placed just below midway in the Northern Premier Division table.
Birmingham & West Midlands Ladies FC, founded in 1998, who compete in the FA Women's National League Division 1 Midlands, have consolidated their formal partnership with Boldmere St Michaels FC, and as of the 2020-21 season, will be officially recognised as Boldmere St Michaels Women F.C.
At the start of the 2019-20 Season, Birmingham & West Midlands FC entered a partnership with Boldmere St Michaels FC, which saw the club change their training and home games venue from Castle Vale to the Trevor Brown Memorial Ground, home of Boldmere F.C. More importantly, the partnership granted Birmingham & West Midlands Ladies F.C with much needed additional off-pitch support, which has reinforced the clubs aspirations to become more sustainable and begin to expand.
The decision to merge Birmingham & West Midlands Ladies F.C with Boldmere St Michaels F.C., provides much needed club stability, sustainability and all-round support. Birmingham & West Midlands Ladies F.C now go from being a single entity club, to the senior women's side of a club that boasts an incredible 67 teams.
Helen Carver, who was General Manager of Birmingham & West Midlands Ladies F.C since it was established in 1998, said: "Boldmere St Michaels F.C. have a long history of positive community spirited football. We have had a fantastic season building the partnership in readiness for this name change, and its readiness to continue to progress and develop the women's and girls' football as Boldmere St Michaels F.C."
The merging of the two clubs will also see more player benefits for Boldmere St Michaels Women F.C. As of the 2020-21 season, all first team players will have ‘free subs'; use of the brand new changing facilities at Boldmere on home matchdays; free gym access at the Boldmere club house; and all their matches recorded through ‘Veo' which is newly installed at the Trevor Brown Memorial Ground, for which weekly match analysis sessions will be run from.
Alan Parsons, current President of Boldmere St Michaels FC, said: "Another string to the bow of our famous football club as we formally welcome the Boldmere St Michaels Women's team to Church Road.
"I personally played the last embers of my non-league career here at Boldmere, little realising that over thirty years later I would still be involved and active within the club. I hope that our Women have such an enjoyable time like I have had, and look forward to their presence and influence at Boldmere St Michaels F.C."
The FA Women's Super League & Women's Championship Board has today confirmed the decision to end the 2019-20 season for the Barclays FA Women's Super League and the FA Women's Championship, with immediate effect.
The Football Association has issued the following statement:
"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FA Women's Super League & Women's Championship Board has been in regular consultation with clubs and key stakeholders from across both leagues to identify the most suitable and appropriate way to conclude the 2019-20 season, and to give clubs and players the clarity and support they need at this time.
"Following overwhelming feedback from the clubs, the decision to bring an end to the 2019-20 season was made in the best interest of the women's game. This will also enable clubs, the FA Women's Super League & Women's Championship Board and The FA to plan, prepare and focus on next season when football returns for the 2020-21 campaign.
"Supporting the welfare of the clubs and players will continue to be our primary concern throughout this process, which also involved a robust and thorough examination of the logistical, operational and financial challenges that the game currently faces.
"Following full and thorough consultation with the clubs, the FA Women's Super League & Women's Championship Board has discussed various recommendations which will be sent to The FA Board to determine the most appropriate sporting outcome for the 2019-20 season. This will include identifying the entries for the 2020-21 UEFA Women's Champions League, which would be based on sporting merit from the 2019-20 Barclays FA Women's Super League season.
"We are not in a position to comment further until the FA Board has had sufficient time to consider all of the recommendations and options."
The Football Association has put out the following statement regarding the immediate future of the Barclays FA WSL and FA Women's Championship:
"The FA has been in regular consultation with clubs and key stakeholders from the Barclays FA Women's Super League and the FA Women's Championship throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our primary concern has always been for the welfare of the clubs and players; and working collaboratively to identify the most suitable and appropriate way to return to football.
Every possible scenario has been meticulously analysed and evaluated in order to find a solution to meet the unique demands of the women's game. This includes a detailed examination of the financial, logistical and operational challenges that we face during this pandemic.
Although we understand that it will not be possible to find a solution that will work for every club and every player, it is our duty to help support the clubs through these unprecedented times.
Following an assessment of the protocols required to return to football and feedback from clubs, which is crucial to any decision-making process, it is clear that there will be significant challenges in completing the 2019/20 season. We are continuing to consult with the clubs on the possibility of terminating the 2019/20 season and, in the event it is decided that this appears to be the only realistic way forward, to seek views on the most appropriate sporting outcome for the season. This includes identifying entries for the 2020/21 UEFA Women's Champions League, which would be based on sporting merit from the 2019/20 Barclays FA Women's Super League season.
Our overriding ambition is to give the clubs, players and stakeholders in the game the support and clarity they need during these challenging circumstances, and to help and enable women's football to continue to thrive in the future.
We are not in a position to comment further during this ongoing consultation process."
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