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Women’s football revamp thrown into doubt after rebellion | Business News

Hopes of establishing a unified commercial structure for the top two tiers of women’s football in England have been dealt a blow after Championship clubs indicated their rejection of a proposed funding and governance model.

Sky News understands that a majority of sides in the game’s second division have rejected proposals for a “newco” to take over the administration of the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship from as early as next season.

The new entity was to have been funded with a £15m loan from the Football Association or, less likely, the Premier League, as the sport’s administrators seek to capitalise on an explosion of interest from fans in recent years.

However, club sources said on Tuesday that Championship clubs had overwhelmingly decided to reject the deal, even though they had been offered a 25% share of the combined leagues’ commercial income.

Their decision was made on the basis of their discontent over the abolition of their voting rights on all but a handful of issues, according to club insiders.

They added, however, that the proposed newco model was not yet dead, with the FA continuing to hold discussions with clubs about the optimum model for the future of the women’s professional game.

The split between the top two tiers could lead the WSL to press ahead with a standalone version of the new company in order for it to formulate a comprehensive broadcast rights package ahead of a tender process expected to begin early next year.

England head coach Sarina Wiegman lifts the trophy on stage during a fan celebration to commemorate England's historic UEFA Women's EURO 2022 triumph in Trafalgar Square, London. Picture date: Monday August 1, 2022.
The England women’s success on the pitch has helped drive supporter interest in the club leagues

The WSL is led after seven games by Chelsea, with Arsenal in second place and Manchester City a further three points behind.

The division below is led by Charlton Athletic.

The vote on the future structure comes as the FA lines up Nikki Doucet as the first chief executive of the women’s professional game in England.

She is widely expected to take the role, although not until a newco is in place.

The ‘newco’ being established to oversee the WSL and the women’s Championship will run the professional game on a standalone basis.

In September, Dawn Airey, the media executive who chairs the WSL and Championship, said she had set an ambition of the WSL becoming the world’s first £1bn-revenue women’s competition within a decade.

“That isn’t a figure we just plucked from the air, it is based on a pretty decent and detailed business plan for over the course of the next 10 years,” Ms Airey told the media.

“We look at the growth of attendances, we look at the growth of engagement and broadcast, we look at the increased interest in sponsorship and marketing opportunities, and then we start being more imaginative about what attending a women’s game means. Not just watching the game, but everything that goes on around it, is there potential for clubs to think differently about their revenues?”

England’s victorious Euro 2022 campaign and its narrow defeat to Spain in last month’s Women’s World Cup final have further fuelled public interest in the sport, with attendances at record levels.

Last year, the WSL board proposed re-engaging investment bankers at Rothschild to evaluate other sources of capital to support the sport’s growth.

Bridgepoint, a private equity firm which this year approached the England and Wales Cricket Board with a proposal to buy a stake in The Hundred, approached the FA about investing in the WSL in 2020.

Private equity investment is not thought to be under active consideration at this point.

The FA declined to comment.

England’s Lionesses on historic terrain that can raise women’s football to another level | World News

The final frontier for the Lionesses.

A day for dreams to be fulfilled – as England face their date with destiny and the prospect of becoming World Cup winners.

Fans are scattered throughout the bars of Sydney savouring the magnitude of what awaits on Sunday night against Spain.

“Whether we win or not – as a country and for the Women’s World Cup we’ve won,” one England fan told Sky News, soaking up the pre-final buildup in a bar on Saturday night.

“It’s a massive step for women’s football. But damn I want to win tomorrow. Everything I’ve dreamed of since I was a child.”

Read more:
Follow the final live

England's Lauren Hemp celebrates scoring their second goal against Australia in their semi-final
England’s Lauren Hemp celebrates scoring their second goal against Australia in their semi-final

Dreams of trophies. But contesting such a final, on such a stage as Stadium Australia, seemed just a dream for these players growing up.

“I think it will be the biggest moment in our careers,” England captain Millie Bright said. “It’s obviously a dream come true.”

So it feels for Spain players who grew up only seeing the men’s game with the limelight and investment.

“We have grown up thinking that football was something that didn’t belong to us – there were always obstacles,” Spain captain Irene Paredes said. “It was not our space, or at least that is what they made us feel.”

They know the pioneers of women’s football went generations before.

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Fans in London gather for Australia v England - BOXPARK Wembley, London, Britain - August 16, 2023 England fans celebrate after Alessia Russo scores their third goal Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra
England fans are hoping to see the Lionesses lift the World Cup trophy for the first time

These Lionesses – along with La Roja – have propelled the game to a new level.

They stand on the brink of being England’s first World Cup winners since the men in 1966.

The teams are bonded through the nation’s footballing history.

Historical challenges

But the Lionesses have had to overcome historical challenges.

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Lionesses to play ‘best game ever’?

Equal billing as footballers was denied by misogyny – with women banned from playing football in England for half a century until the 1970s.

The gender pay gap in the sport remains vast.

By Sunday night, the most successful England team of all time could be the one guided to glory by Sarina Wiegman – the first person to manage two different countries in World Cup finals after losing with her native Netherlands in 2019.

Captain Millie Bright
Captain Millie Bright

Just like at the European Championship, England have swept into the final by winning every game so far at the Women’s World Cup.

Success in Sydney would complete a double a year after lifting European silverware.

But don’t forget how close the Lionesses came to a quarter-final exit from their home tournament – just six minutes from losing.

Spain awaits

Spain stand in England's way
Spain stand in England’s way – and their form has been stunning

And to whom? Spain – the opponents awaiting in Stadium Australia.

But four of that starting line-up are not in Australia after being part of a mutiny against coach Jorge Vilda over demands for a more professional environment.

“Next question please,” he responded when asked about the revolt on the eve of the final.

Of the 15 players who withdrew from consideration for Spain only three returned to the fold for the World Cup – Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmati and Mariona Caldentey.

Back in July 2022, the Lionesses produced the equaliser against Spain through Ella Toone and went on to secure their semi-final place through Georgia Stanway in extra time.

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England fans: ‘They will bring it home’

Read more:
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The stars who might bring home World Cup
King urges Lionesses to ‘roar to victory’

Both players remain part of this run to the final – although Toone’s starting spot owes much to Lauren James being suspended for the last two matches in Australia.

The return of James gives England options.

The Chelsea forward had a team-leading three goals before her last-16 stamp against Nigeria.

Since then, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo have also made it to three goals.

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England have had to contend with disruption to selection plans caused by injury with captain Leah Williamson and striker Beth Mead lost before the tournament.

But replacement captain Bright has forged a strong three-woman defensive back-line with Alex Greenwood and Jess Carter.

New territory

They are facing a Spain packed with goal threats – even with two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas yet to make her usual devastating impact after recovering from an ACL injury.

Jennifer Hermoso, Alba Redondo and Aitana Bonmati have all notched up a trio of goals each.

But look down the Golden Boot chart and there is the formidable teen force of Salma Paralluelo who has two goals.

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - England Press Conference - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 19, 2023 England manager Sarina Wiegman during the press conference REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Coach Sarina Wiegman

The 19-year-old winger wasn’t even in the squad at Euro 2022 – showing how Spain’s strength just keeps on growing at only their third Women’s World Cup and the furthest they have ever reached.

The Lionesses have made it to the last four at three World Cups by contrast – and that pedigree should count in their favour.

But they have never made it to a final before.

This final represents a power shift as cash and commitment to women’s football in Europe has been accelerated.

This is historic terrain that can raise women’s football to another level in England – and elevate the legendary status of the Lionesses.

Women’s World Cup: England’s Lionesses through to semi-final after beating Colombia | World News

The Lionesses have secured a spot in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup after beating Colombia 2-1.

Colombia led the match with Leicy Stantos’s goal 44 minutes in after she looped a shot over Mary Earps from the right, but England’s Lauren Hemp managed to equalise just minutes before half time after a mistake from goalkeeper Catalina Perez.

But it was Alessia Russo who secured England’s winning goal 63 minutes in, lobbing the ball into the bottom left corner from inside the penalty area which gave the Lionesses the lead.

England v Colombia – follow live reaction

Shortly after, Colombia’s Perez left the pitch with an injury and was subbed for Natalia Giraldo.

Sarina Wiegman’s team will now face co-hosts Australia in the semi-finals on Wednesday 16 August, with kick off at 11am UK time.

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Lauren Hemp scored England’s first goal in the quarter-final game against Colombia

Colombia were the lowest-ranked team remaining at 25 and had never made it past the tournament’s round of 16.

But this in this tournament their team eliminated world number two side Germany with a 2-1 victory in the group stage and looked to complete another giant-killing here.

For the Lionesses, England’s Ella Toone had stepped in for the suspended Lauren James who was handed a red card for standing on the back of Michelle Alozie in the Lionesses last match against Nigeria which resulted in a 4-2 shootout win.

The tense match comes after Australia secured their spot in the semi-finals this morning following a dramatic penalty shootout with France.

Australia were 7-6 winners after the spot-kicks, which featured seven missed penalties combined.

Women’s World Cup: Boost for Lionesses as Keira Walsh returns to training – with a day to go until England face Nigeria | UK News

Keira Walsh is training with the Lionesses once again – with just one day to go until England face Nigeria in the last 16.

The midfielder – who was an integral part of the team that won the Euros last year – suffered a knee injury in a group game during the Women’s World Cup.

She was subsequently ruled out of England’s Group D fixture against China.

But in a post on X, formerly Twitter, the Lionesses declared that “all 23 players” in the squad were out for training at the Central Coast Stadium in Australia.

It remains unclear whether Walsh will make an appearance on the pitch tomorrow – or return to the tournament at all.

She was stretchered off in the first half of England’s 1-0 win over Denmark in Sydney on 28 July.

Walsh suddenly collapsed to the ground without any contact with other players in the 38th minute, and immediately called for medical assistance.

Kiera Walsh

After a lengthy delay, she left the field with her head in her hands and was replaced by Laura Coombs.

Sky Sports correspondent Anton Tolui said there was “good news for England fans” as Walsh was spotted at the training ground for the first time since the injury, which had not affected her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Women’s World Cup 2023: Which football teams are in the knockout stage?

Kiera Walsh

Walsh currently plays for Barcelona – having represented Great Britain at the Olympics – and previously played for Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers.

The Women’s World Cup has been tainted with injury for England players, with captain Leah Williamson and Beth Mead both forced to miss the tournament because of them.

Women’s World Cup: Stanway ready to step up as England play China in final group game | UK News

Georgia Stanway says she will lead by example in the absence of midfield partner and best friend Keira Walsh when England take on China in their final Women’s World Cup group game.

Walsh was stretchered off in the first half of England’s 1-0 win over Denmark in Sydney on Friday with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, although scans have since shown Walsh has not suffered an ACL injury as first feared.

England boss Sarina Wiegman confirmed Walsh is definitely not in contention for Tuesday’s game against China in Adelaide, with Stanway relishing the prospect of taking on additional responsibility in the absence of Barcelona midfielder Walsh.

“I woke up this morning feeling a lot more mature,” Stanway said.

“I think over the last year I’ve created a little bit of a leadership role for myself in the way I am playing.

“I’ve built a lot of confidence in my own game, I’ve been consistent off the back of the Euros, and I just want to keep that momentum.

“I can prove my leadership by the way that I am playing. I can lead by example and I’m not afraid to communicate. I’ll try and do two jobs.”

More on Women’s World Cup

Wiegman was non-committal when asked whether Walsh would be able to play any further part in the tournament.

“Keira is okay. It’s not an ACL. I can’t give you any more information,” Wiegman said.

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‘England must get job done for Keira’

“She won’t be available tomorrow and actually we are only really focusing on the game tomorrow and after that we will continue what we are doing.

“I think we have a strong enough team. I think every game we want to be at our best and we know she is not available. We have a group of 23, so now we have a group of 22 and we have found solutions, and we will show that tomorrow.

“It’s not nice to lose players. First of all for them, and second for the team, but we are here to move on.

“It’s part of sport, it’s not nice, but we have to move on, to adapt to the new situation and find a way, and bring 11 players on the pitch with whom we think can win the game.”

Read more:
FIFA boss leaves World Cup after less than a week

Everything you need to know about Women’s World Cup

Wiegman now has five players from the starting XI that lifted last year’s Euros unavailable for the showdown with China. But the England boss is not fazed, and says the target is to end the group stages with a 100% record.

Weigman (left) says she's philosophical about the injuries to the team
Weigman (left) says she’s philosophical about the injuries to the team

“Things happen in sport,” Wiegman said.

“Sometimes you win some things and sometimes you lose, like now you lose some players. As I said, we have a group of 23.

“It looks a little different maybe, because we have different players, but we are still trying to win games. That’s what we have done in the first two games and that’s what we will try to do tomorrow too.”

Stanway added: “Like Sarina said, there’s 22 of us that have got to step up, and she (Walsh) will be watching.”

The group stage has begun and runs over a two-week period, finishing on 3 August. Group winners and runners-up progress to the round of 16, which takes place from 5 August to 8 August.

The quarter-finals, which will be held in Wellington, Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney, are scheduled for 11 and 12 August.

The first semi-final will be played on 15 August in Auckland, with the other semi-final taking place on 16 August at the Accor Stadium in Sydney, which will then host the final on 20 August..

Women’s FA Cup final draws world record crowd as Chelsea beat Manchester United | UK News

A world record crowd witnessed Chelsea win the Women’s FA Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

A sold-out Wembley saw 77,390 fans cheer on the sides under the famous arch – making the attendance the highest for a domestic women’s club fixture.

The sheer number of supporters smashed the previous record of 60,739 when Barcelona Women beat Atletico Madrid Women in 2019 at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

Chelsea’s Australian striker, Sam Kerr, put the Blues ahead in the second half after Manchester United had a goal ruled out for offside in the opening seconds of the game.

A general view of the fans in the stands making up a record-breaking attendance during the Vitality Women's FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday May 14, 2023.

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United staged an onslaught in the final seconds of stoppage time, but Chelsea managed to survive the scramble and the game ended 1-0.

The London side won the cup for the third consecutive season, having triumphed over Manchester City in the 2022 final, beating them 3-2.

Chelsea's Sam Kerr celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Vitality Women's FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday May 14, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Women Final. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire...RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.
Sam Kerr (right) scored the winner

FA director of women’s football Baroness Sue Campbell said: “To break the world record is a massive statement and a wonderful marker as to where the women’s game has come in this country.

“A lot of credit goes to all of the players and the clubs in the Barclays Women’s Super League, the Barclays Women’s Championship and below that, but also credit to everybody that’s worked at the FA to make sure this is a reality.

“I’ve said before that we’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got an incredibly long way to go and we know that.

“But it’s another marker in the sand that the game in this country is now alive and well, flourishing and growing.”

The attendance record for a women’s match did however fall short of the 91,648 fans who watched the Women’s Champions League semi-finals last year as Barcelona beat Wolfsburg at the Nou Camp.

The news comes at a time when grassroots girls football clubs are struggling to survive despite the successes in women’s football at the highest level.

JK Rowling calls Nicola Sturgeon ‘destroyer of women’s rights’ – as author backs protests over Scotland’s new trans law | UK News

JK Rowling has tweeted a picture of herself in a T-shirt that calls Scotland’s first minister a “destroyer of women’s rights”.

The author also gave her support to people protesting over a new gender recognition law in the country.

She posted: “I stand in solidarity with @ForWomenScot and all women protesting and speaking outside the Scottish Parliament. #NoToSelfID.”

The legislation aims to amend a previous law to make it easier for transgender people to be legally recognised as their chosen gender and get a new birth certificate.

They will no longer need to provide medical reports or evidence, and the minimum age of applicants for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) will be cut from 18 to 16.

A majority of MSPs on a parliamentary committee have recommended that the general principles of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill should be approved.

Scotland’s social justice secretary has said it won’t give trans people new rights but is about “simplifying and improving the process for a trans person to gain legal recognition”.

In a statement, Shona Robison said: “Our support for trans rights does not conflict with our continued strong commitment to uphold the rights and protections that women and girls currently have under the 2010 Equality Act. This bill makes no changes to that act.”

People protested against the planned law outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Thursday.

Some carried signs reading “no one was born in the wrong body”, “humans can’t change sex” and “keep prisons single sex”.

Former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the committee “should listen, they should challenge, they should argue, they should probe”.

She added: “They should not dismiss, because in that world of dismissal, you shoot the messenger. You ignore the message, you make bad law and other people live with the consequences.”

Rowling has been criticised by some over her views on women’s rights and trans people but strongly denies being transphobic.

In January, police said they wouldn’t charge trans activists who tweeted photos showing her address – so-called “doxing”.

West Brom women’s team switch from white shorts to navy to ‘focus on performance without added anxiety’ of periods | UK News

West Bromwich Albion’s women’s team will switch to navy shorts to get rid of the anxiety of having to wear white while on their period.

They will wear the new home kit for the rest of the season and beyond after consultation with the whole squad.

Captain Hannah George praised the club for supporting the change to darker coloured shorts.

“Representing the club professionally and looking smart in the kit is really important to us,” she said.

“This change will help us to focus on our performance without added concerns or anxiety.”

Albion play in the Northern Premier division of the FA Women’s National League, the third tier of the game.

Head coach Jenny Sugarman said it was important to make any change, no matter how small, to help her players perform at their best.

“I’m proud the club have supported the decision to switch to navy shorts for our female players,” she said.

“It’s another sign of the continued integration of the women’s team across the club and recognition of a progressive and inclusive culture.”

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The change comes after England’s Euro-winning team raised similar concerns over the colour of their own shorts.

Beth Mead said in July: “It is very nice to have an all-white kit but sometimes it’s not practical when it’s the time of the month. We have discussed it as a team and we have fed that back to Nike.”

There’s also been talk about the issue with regards to Wimbledon’s strict all-white kit policy, with a small group protesting outside the club ahead of the women’s final this year.

Former Olympic tennis champion Monica Puig has also tweeted about the “mental stress” of wearing white at the tournament and “praying not to have your period during those two weeks”.