New entrants considered for Women’s National League
By Dave Hooper
The FAI have invited expressions of interest from clubs/entities who may be interested in participating in the Continental Tyres Women’s National League.
The Women’s national league launched in 2011 with six clubs, Raheny United, Peamount United, Cork Women, Shamrock Rovers, Castlebar Celtic and Wexford Youth’s.
While currently an eight-team league, which Limerick FC joined this season, three of the original members have since left the league.
Raheny United merged with Shelbourne Ladies, while Shamrock Rovers and Castlebar Celtic have both withdrawn.
While Galway WFC, Limerick and Kilkenny United have all since joined the league, Kilkenny United have won just one game in their three seasons since joining.
The FAI themselves have announced over 22,900 registered players in Ireland and set-up a new 11-team Women’s Under-17 National League this year, although national soccer competitions in Ireland are not in a practically strong position.
The SSE Airtricity League has been beset with financial stability problems, with recent issues around player’s wages at Limerick and Bray Wanderers fresh in the mind.
Similar issues face clubs entering the Women’s national league, with one estimate suggesting running a team in the WNL at €40,000 per year.
“We’re delighted with the progress being made across the Women’s National League and it’s important to take the next step forward” explained FAI Director of Competitions Fran Gavin.
Any successful applicants would begin competing in the 2019 Continental Tyres Women’s National League.
“We’ve just launched a new Women’s Under-17 National League which is only going to increase the number of elite players and they will need more senior clubs to move to in the future.”
“We’ve got a high number of internationals in the league which shows the quality of the teams has really improved over recent years. With the growth of the women’s game in Ireland, it’s important to have more clubs from around the country so players can participate at an elite level.”
“Any club or entity will have to meet the high standards of the participation agreement as it is important to try and improve every aspect of the league, on and off the field. Relevant stadiums, coaching-quality and a player pathway are extremely important features for a Women’s National League club.”
While Gavin paints a very healthy picture of the growth of women’s football in Ireland, the women’s game much like the men’s faces similar challenges, particularly within the participation agreement.
Attendances are much lower than those at SSE Airtricity League clubs, with Shelbourne Ladies gaining gates of well under 100 for their home games in their double winning season of 2016.
This has resulted in a hesitancy from SSE Airtricitiy League clubs to field women’s national league teams.
Including the under-17 league, just seven of the 20 SSE Airtricitiy League clubs have women’s teams. Albeit Derry City’s ladies compete in the IFA Women’s National League and Galway United have no real link with Galway WFC.
While growing the base of female’s playing competitive soccer, the challenge facing the FAI’s expansion of the Women’s national league is now a quality issue.
Kilkenny United registering just one win in nearly four seasons, shows the quantity won’t match quality.
The move is now on to bridge the gap from the 11 under-17 to the eight senior club’s. The quantity may be growing, but the quality faces a question mark.