The Spring Series of the Womens Soccer League, which starts this weekend, has been thrown into chaos by the closure of Notts County’s Ladies team.
Notts County were due to play Arsenal on Sunday but on Friday morning owner Alan Hardy withdrew the team from the WSL citing debts and a tax bill they could not pay back.
With no time to find a replacement, that means the Spring Series, a short season over the next few months, will take place with nine teams rather than 10.
The FA are now trying to look after the Notts County players who have been left without an employer for the season. Five of them have England central contracts which covers part of their salaries although clearly plenty of players will be left out of pocket.
This weekend the FA will speak to the liquidators to establish the contractual status of the players. If they are now free agents they will be able to join other clubs, if not the FA is considering opening the transfer window to allow them to move.
Despite suggestions from Notts County that two Premier League sides were interested in buying the club, that is not an option. There are licence criteria that have to be met by any WSL side and clubs cannot simply be sold and re-branded overnight.
Meanwhile the FA is in consultation about changing the rules for the 2018-19 WSL season. Aiming to guarantee a successful England team at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the FA are consulting on a quota of English players for each WSL side as well as a salary cap.
This Spring Series is likely to be dominated by Manchester City and Chelsea, who have signed very talented players, but the FA wants to ensure that WSL sides continue to field English players rather than importing foreign talent.