By Owen Morgan
Women’s football in Wales is set for a complete overhaul which will be in place in time for the start of the 2021/22 season.
The restructure has been announced by the Football Association of Wales following an extensive review and consultation process involving key stakeholders within the game.
A new pyramid league structure will be defined in order to provide competitive women’s football appropriate to playing standards, economic means, geographical location, facilities and club structure.
Tier 1 remains a National League administered by the FAW, with the champions qualifying for the UEFA Women’s Champions.
The UEFA and FAW Club Licensing Regulations that were introduced for the 2020/21 season will help ensure a competitive national league of the highest standard, with all clubs working within the same framework.
Tier 2 will be regionalised with new northern and southern leagues, that will be affiliated to the FAW. These Tier 2 leagues will be administrated by independent management committees with increased support from the FAW.
The licence application process for Tier 1 and 2 will be open to all clubs in Wales for the 2021/22 season. Details of licence criteria for Tier 1 and 2 and the application process will be announced in due course.
Lowri Roberts, the FAW’s Head of Womens’ and Girls’ Football, said: “By introducing set criteria and providing additional support to Tier 2 leagues and clubs, it will provide a stronger platform for clubs to prepare to step into the Tier 1 and therefore create a more sustainable domestic pyramid and a more competitive national league.
“During the consultation period, it became very clear that there was a need to introduce a transitional step between U16s girls’ football and senior women’s football as the current structure was not supporting player retention.”
As a result, as well as an overhaul to the top two tiers, a new U19s development league will be introduced.
Divided into a northern and southern league, they will be operated by the same independent management committees responsible for Tier 2 and shall be introduced for the 2021/22 season.
An U19 Development Team will also be a mandatory condition of obtaining a licence to participate in Tier 1.
The Area Associations will be responsible for operating Tiers 3 and 4 in the Recreational Level of the pyramid. With an aim to increase participation in the Women’s game in Wales, the Recreational Level will be allowed more flexibility in the Rules and Regulations to achieve this objective.
This new structure encompasses the whole of the women’s game in Wales.