How was the decision made to change the WPL from a squad to a team-based competition in 2017 and by whom was it made?
The Female Football Forum (FFF) was held on 24 November.
All clubs were invited to contribute items to the agenda prior to the FFF and were given the agenda of the meeting prior to the FFF. The agenda included the discussion of the WPL Competition. Clubs as always, were expected to nominate appropriate representatives to attend the FFF and discuss the items on the agenda.
The FFF is a forum for making recommendations to the council of clubs, not a decision-making entity itself. The minutes of that meeting were distributed to the clubs soon after the meeting.
The decision to change the format of the competition for 2017 was made by the clubs in accordance with requirements of the MWFA Constitution.
In order for the clubs to be able to be able to plan and start training for the 2017 season, a vote had to be taken prior to the next scheduled Council of Clubs meeting (6 February 2017). Consistent with standard committee practice, decisions can be made and votes taken by phone or email if they need to be made outside of the meeting schedule.
In an email sent to the clubs and all relevant players (WPL, WAL1, W18 players from 2016) after the vote was taken, it was publicly stated which clubs voted in support of the proposal to move to a team competition (Avalon, BTH, CC Strikers, Curl Curl, Dee Why, HSU, Forest Killarney, Mosman, Pittwater), those who against it (Beacon Hill, Brookvale, Manly Vale, Narrabeen, Seaforth, Wakehurst) while Manly Allambie and St Augustines abstained.
Each clubs vote is weighted according to the size of the club, on that basis, the nine clubs in favour of the proposal represent 29 votes and the six clubs against the decision represent 22 votes.
At no point since the results were published has any club refuted the public record of their vote.
Why didnt you listen to the five remaining WPL squad since they have the greatest interest in this competition?
Every significant decision at MWFA is made by all clubs in accordance with our constitution. After listening to the five WPL squad clubs, complying with their demands regarding borrowing rules and player grading would lead to an uneven playing field (figuratively speaking), a further strengthening of those clubs and would continue to discourage other clubs from trying to participate.
Why was it decided to even discuss changing the format of the competition?
Over the past few years, the number of players participating in WPL has been falling. In 2016, only 210 registered players across seven squads, representing six (out of 17) clubs participated and this was going to fall even further in 2017 as Avalon was pulling out of the competition and Manly Vale was going back to having one squad, instead of two. That left only five squads for 2017, which is not sufficient to run a competition under MWFAs constitution and is far from ideal for the participants who would be playing only four other teams and would have several byes during the season.
Isnt this change detrimental to player development?
Some of the most impassioned dissenters talk about how moving to a team structure will prevent player development. There is nothing preventing the WPL and WAL1 teams training together and in fact the decision to play the WPL and WAL1 teams of the same clubs consecutively at the same fields was made to allow for this.
The stronger, more experienced players can continue mentoring the younger, less experienced players, both at training sessions and also at matches since they can still support each other as they have done in the past.
Even if they dont move straight into the WPL or WAL1 teams through the trial process, W18 girls aspiring to play WPL can still be borrowed by the WAL1 team and the WPL team four times each. Thats eight development opportunities across the season. If they deserve more than that, the club could consider moving them up to the appropriate team for the remainder of the season.
It would be great to see more the WPL players undertaking coaching qualifications and working with younger teams to share their knowledge, skills and experience. If youre interested in doing a coaching course, please contact the MWFA office.
Why cant WPL players be borrowed by WAL1 teams?
If MWFA were to allow this, then the WAL1 clubs without WPL teams would be disadvantaged. Where a WPL player returns from injury or for some other reason needs to be moved to the WAL1 team, a simple regrading request to the MWFA Executive Committee can be made, as can be made by every player within the association. The MWFA Executive Committee has promised leniency in the WPL and WAL1 divisions in 2017 as a concession to the squad clubs but this will not be allowed if its requested in order to boost a WAL1 team for certain matches and will be carefully monitored.
Why doesnt MWFA force clubs to enter squads into WPL?
Hopefully we will get to the point where clubs are striving to enter the competition, not being begged or forced to join it. Clubs need to build up the numbers of talented players in order to enter WPL and it is very hard for most clubs to get to the point where they have 30 or more sufficiently talented girls. By moving to a team structure, the hurdle is lower and more clubs will be able to join the competition, which is already the case for the 2017 competition, with three additional clubs joining the WPL team competition.
Why dont we pair teams across clubs to make up the numbers?
We tried doing this in 2016 but for various reasons it didnt happen. When teams from two clubs pair, they dont have the flexibility of the squads to share players across the two teams and are therefore at a disadvantage from the start. The squad clubs would not compromise by agreeing to limit borrowing across the squad to the other clubs satisfaction.
Why dont we join with a neighbouring association?
No other association runs their WPL as a squad competition, making it impossible to join the competitions unless we move to a team competition.
Arent you just punishing the clubs who have focused on WPL and managed to build a squad?
This was not the intention and is not the case. By moving to a team structure, we can actually hold the WPL competition in 2017 with a viable number of teams participating and we expect that other clubs will now make efforts to join in future years. The five squad clubs have made massive efforts to build and support womens football and they are recognised for doing so but other clubs are also trying to build strong female contingents. The strong squad clubs have been getting stronger and the smaller (and even some large) clubs have not been able to get and/or sustain a full squad of WPL standard players. The squad clubs know the effort involved and know that it doesnt happen overnight. We need the competition to work in 2017 and going forward and expect that this change will provide more clubs with what they now see as an achievable goal of participating in the WPL competition.
What will happen with promotion and relegation?
MWFAs objective is to run fair and competitive divisions and so we intend to promote and relegate teams as appropriate. This potentially means promoting from WAL2, but that couldnt be done under the squad system where other divisions are run as team competitions and WPL as a squad. We aim to have promotion of the top team/s of WAL1 and potentially relegation of the bottom team/s of WPL but that depends on the number of teams overall and the spread of those teams across clubs. The Premier League competitions (Mens and Womens) are invitation only competitions as per rules in MWFA Constitution.
With most changes comes uncertainty and it may take a year to get the grading of teams correct.
How many teams will be playing in 2017?
At this stage we expect to have eight teams in each of the WPL and WAL1 competitions. Beyond the squad clubs, the three additional teams in each division are only playing due to the changes in the structure of the competition.
Will the MWFA Womens Select Team vs Manly United match be held in 2017?
At this stage, MWFA still intends to play the MWFA Womens Team vs Manly United.
The MWFA has been informed by four of remaining WPL clubs that they do not wish to participate in the match this year. This decision is disappointing and only harms the players who miss out on the opportunity to play with their fellow competitors and showcase the best female talent within MWFA to the broader MWFA community of WPL supporters.
We hope that those clubs change their mind and we can then go ahead with the match which is a great way to bring players, clubs, supporters and Many United together in a celebration of female football.
What else can MWFA do to encourage females to play WPL?
Last year, we made additional (and overdue) efforts to encourage and support the WPL competition. We held the inaugural MWFA Womens Select team vs Manly United match which was a great success, with many enthusiastic supporters enjoying the match. We had better coverage in the Soccer Post.
We included the WPL and WAL1 in the end of season MWFA Awards Night. We supported the long term growth of female football in the association by adding three new age groups for the girls and received good press for doing so, further adding to the exposure for female football in our area. We also further encouraged the younger girls by holding gala days for each of U8, U9, U10 and U11 girls. So the support for WPL is occurring both directly/immediately and indirectly/medium to long term.
As with all aspects of the competitions run by MWFA, we will continue to monitor the status of the WPL and as more clubs grow the number and strength of their female contingent, we can consider returning to a squad structure.
As with all levels of female football, from grassroots to the Matildas, there is plenty more work to do to grow female football and all constructive ideas are welcome.