In another excerpt from my book, I describe a bit about women’s soccer in England.
Let’s briefly discuss the “ladies,” as they are always called in England. It’s also nice to talk about something America kicks ass at.
The modern version of women’s soccer in England is roughly 50 years old. It was around before that – in fact, it was quite popular around World War I – but incredibly, the Football Association banned women’s and girls’ soccer being played on club members’ grounds from 1921 until 1971. This effectively killed the game for decades.
1969 saw the Women’s FA come about, and when the ban was lifted in 1971, the women’s game came under the control of the national associations around Europe. The first Women’s World Cup was held in 1991, won by the USA, and since 1993 there has been a Women’s FA Cup in England. Arsenal have won it a record 14 times, and Manchester City are the current two-time champions. We should point out that the women’s champion club receives less money than a men’s first-round winner.
The big difference between here and the States is that the vast majority of English women’s teams are associated with the pre-existing men’s clubs. This means the financial system makes a lot more sense than in the United States, and the clubs are starting to throw some of that money around. For this season, many of the top US international players have moved to English and European clubs.
Meanwhile, the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States has only eight clubs, with just four of those—including the Portland Thorns, the best-supported women’s team in the world—associated with an existing MLS club.
In England, there is now a pyramid of leagues, just like the men’s game, with the top two being the Women’s Super League 1 and 2. The third tier is the Women’s Premier League, northern and southern divisions, the fourth tier is each of those split into two regional divisions, and after that it gets really small and really regional.
Typically, a club’s ladies team plays at the men’s team practice facility or a smaller local club’s ground. At the lower levels it can be hard to track down fixture lists and game information, but wherever I can, I have listed them in the club profiles in my book.