Southampton FC Women’s 2020/21 league season has been curtailed with immediate effect and declared incomplete, following the Football Association’s latest update on Tiers 3-6 of the women’s game.
The FA Women’s Football Board today announced the decision to conclude all campaigns at those levels without promotion or relegation, as also happened in 2019/20, after the Covid-19 pandemic once again halted fixtures for a number of months.
It means that, for the second year running, Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side have seen their season declared void while sitting atop the FA Women’s National League Division One South West standings.
However, the FA Women’s Football Board has announced plans for a process of upward club movement, allowing applications for teams to move into a higher tier in 2021/22, with the likelihood of expanded divisions to accommodate this, meaning that progression still remains a possibility for clubs despite seasons officially concluding.
Southampton's participation in the Vitality Women's FA Cup remains unaffected, with Saints hosting Plymouth Argyle in the second round proper on Sunday 4th April, at 3pm BST.
The full statement is as follows…
An update on Tiers 3-6 of the Women’s Pyramid
The FA Women’s Football Board has now considered the feedback submitted by Leagues and Clubs as part of the Tiers 3-6 Club Survey, the Grassroots Survey and recommendations of the Women’s Football Conference, in addition to the information set out in the Government’s recent roadmap.
We would like to thank Clubs and Leagues for submitting their views and the time taken in providing responses during what we appreciate is an incredibly challenging period for everyone.
The Women’s Football Board has made the following decisions, which are subject to approval by the FA Board and/or FA Council as appropriate:
The 2020/21 Season for tiers 3-6 of the Women’s Football Pyramid will be curtailed with immediate effect and declared incomplete, with no further league fixtures taking place this season. There will also be no promotion and relegation between these tiers for the 2020/21 season, including no promotion from tier 3 into tier 2 and no relegation from tier 6 into tier 7. A recommendation for an alternative club movement process is included below.
At tier 7, County Leagues will follow the guidance given to grassroots leagues, allowing them to make their own decision on the conclusion of the season, following FA Board approval to extend the season into June 2021.
The Promotion Pool, allowing club movement from tier 7 to tier 6, will remain active, with the deadline for application extended to 1 May 2021. All clubs seeking promotion will need to apply, with champion clubs no longer receiving automatic consideration. In addition, the deadline for clubs throughout the Pyramid to apply for Voluntary Relegation will also be extended to 1 May 2021.
The Women’s Football Board, taking into account the views of Clubs and Leagues, decided that extending the 2020/21 league season beyond the end of May 2021 would not be a viable option due to the operational issues faced by many Clubs and Leagues. Clubs and Leagues will however be encouraged to provide playing opportunities over the coming months by organising alternative fixtures in some format, where they are able and feel comfortable to do so following the return of grassroots football from 29 March and in line with the appropriate guidelines.
In addition, and in light of feedback from Clubs and Leagues, the Women’s Football Board made the following recommendation to accompany the above decisions:
A process of upward club movement, via application and based on set criteria, should take place.
Further feedback on this will be sought from Clubs at tier 3-6 before details of the process are confirmed, but it is hoped that facilitating club movement will support the stability and integrity of the Women’s Football Pyramid following the disruption to the last two seasons. This is likely to result in expanded divisions at tiers 3-6 for the 2021/22 season, something which Leagues have indicated they could accommodate.
Clubs should note the proposed extension to the deadlines for application to the Promotion Pool (at tier 7) and for Voluntary Relegation (throughout the Pyramid), to 1 May 2021.
The Women’s Football Board will now present their recommendation to The FA Board for ratification on the decision to curtail the season, and to The FA Council on the recommendation for upward club movement via application, with consideration of further club feedback.
Further detail on these decisions will be communicated to leagues and clubs directly in due course.