Super League landmark for women's game

Remodelled championship launches tomorrow with aim of raising quality and improving competitiveness

The first ever semi-professional women's football league in England has arrived. The FA Women's Super League kicks off tomorrow when Arsenal Ladies – who have dominated the game for over a decade – face Chelsea Ladies in what has been described by David Bernstein, the chairman of the FA, as a "true landmark in the game."

This summer eight clubs from across England will compete home and away in a competition in which the Football Association has invested £3m. The league will run from April until October with a break from 12 May to accommodate the Women's World Cup in Germany where the national team will be competing. Matches will be televised and highlights broadcast on ESPN. They will be taking a similar break next year to avoid competing with the London Olympics and Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

One of the motivations behind the league is to improve the quality and distribution of talent. Arsenal have won 12 of the 17 Women's Premier League titles and been runner-up three times since its inception in 1992. They have won both the FA Cup and League Cup 10 times. But Hope Powell, manager of the women's England team for the past 13 years, is confident the WSL will end that domination and ultimately improve the women's game.

"The domestic programme in England wasn't challenging enough," Powell said. "It has always been Arsenal at the top of the tree for the last 10 years. Now we want the standards across the league to be raised. The fact the league is condensed means some good players will now be sitting on the bench and if they want to play they may have to move. This will help the domestic programme which in turn helps the international programme."

The FA is being careful to make sure that the league is a success. Unlike the men's game with huge salaries, the clubs can pay no more than four players an annual salary in excess of £20,000 – in order to spread talent across the sides. This is also to avoid a repeat of the problems faced by the professional women's league in America. The US may currently be the No 1-ranked nation in the world but after setting up in 2005 the league disbanded after two seasons with financial problems. The Women's Professional Soccer League restarted in 2009 and is made up of six fully-professional sides.

Kelly Simmons, the FA's Head of the National Game who is responsible for the development of grass-roots football in the women's game, says the FA is taking a sensible approach. "The professional women's league in America went bust initially because they tried to go too big, too quickly," she said. "We need to make sure we don't make the same mistake and that we've got enough revenues to sustain eight teams before we try and grow.

"One of the great things about going from 12 teams to eight is you're really honing that quality to the very top players. People watching the game for the very first time want the standard to be as strong as it can be. There's a commitment to opening up the league but we need to make sure we're ready."

The new championship explained

What are the teams?

Arsenal, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy FC, Chelsea, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Everton, Lincoln, Liverpool.

Players to watch

* Karen Carney (Forward, Birmingham) The 23-year-old has returned to England from the Chicago Red Stars. She was part of Arsenal's quadruple-winning side in 2006/07 and the winger has 11 goals in 57 appearances for the national side.

* Rachel Yankey (Midfielder, Arsenal) She has made 108 appearances for England making her the most-capped player currently still playing for the national side. The 31-year-old has won the women's Uefa Cup, FA Cup, Premier League and League Cup.

* Sophie Bradley (Defender, Lincoln) Only 21, she has already captained Leeds and after making her senior England debut in August last year has four caps.

* Faye White (Defender, Arsenal) The 6ft Arsenal and England captain has 29 winners' medals at club level, and 11 goals in 88 appearances for her country.

Opening fixture

Chelsea v Arsenal: Tomorrow, Tooting & Mitcham FC, 17.30. Tickets Adults £4, Children £1. Television ESPN from 17.00.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'