The Barclays FA Women’s Super League has reached one of its first significant landmarks as today [13 April] marks the ten-year anniversary of the league’s launch.
To celebrate the anniversary, The FA is launching its first FA Women’s Super League Hall of Fame, which will be sponsored by Barclays, that will look to recognise those individuals who have made a significant impact on the league. Whether that be a Golden Boot winner, a Championship winning coach, or an individual who has displayed excellence or leadership during the league’s existence, induction into the Barclays FA WSL Hall of Fame will be reserved for an exclusive group each year, honouring their contribution to the league.
“It’s a chance for us really to showcase and thank some of the players, managers and officials who’ve made outstanding contributions,” says Kelly Simmons, FA Director of the Women’s Professional Game, who will chair the expert panel that will create a shortlist of nominees before determining who will be the first inductees. An induction event will take place later in the year.
The launch of the Hall of Fame will double up as a celebration and acknowledgement of the ten year anniversary of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, which has gone through some structural changes, created some unfortunate casualties but most importantly seen some incredible – and yes, we’re going to use the term – ‘game-changing’ developments since its inaugural season.
On this day in 2011, Chelsea and Arsenal stepped onto the field at Tooting & Mitcham Football Club to kick-off the very first match in the league, shown live on ESPN, with the Blues’ Helen Ward kicking the first ball in the competition, and Arsenal’s Gilly Flaherty scoring the first goal in a 1-0 win for the Gunners in front of 2,510 fans.
The next evening, Lincoln Ladies hosted Doncaster Belles at Sincil Bank (0-1, Vicky Exley) in front of 802 fans, Birmingham City smashed four past Bristol Academy and Liverpool and Everton drew 3-3. It was the start of a new era.
What has followed has been a ten-year journey, starting with those eight teams in a semi-professional competition, that has developed into a fully professional 12 team league with added exposure and an ever-increasing audience.
Teams have gone full-time, players have become household names, and some of the best talent has come through the England pathway, as well as from abroad. Barclays showed their commitment to the league when they became title sponsor ahead of the 2019/2020 season, while the BBC and BT Sport have shone a light on the competition with their coverage. In addition, the league was made more accessible than ever with the launch of the FA Player in August 2019, which provides live streams, highlights and features from across the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.
Fans have played a significant part in the league’s growth, with crowds growing over the ten years, supported by clubs opening their main stadia that has seen crowds flock to the Etihad Stadium, Stamford Bridge and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – where a record crowd of 38,262 witnessed last season’s North London derby.
Kelly Simmons, FA Director of the Women’s Professional Game, said: “I could never have envisaged the league having been on such a journey of growth and development when we launched it ten years ago. The support we have received from clubs, stakeholders, the media and fans has been overwhelming.
“I want to say thank you to all those who have been on the journey with us over the last ten years. Without your support, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Rest assured, we still have huge ambitions for this league, with the ultimate goal to have the best professional women’s competition in the world.”
Tom Corbett, Barclays Head of Sponsorship; said: “We are delighted to be the first sponsors of the new Barclays FA Women’s Super League Hall of Fame. The positive change in women’s football in the last ten years has been huge and the Hall of Fame is a great opportunity to honour the pioneers who have transformed the game for the next generation of women and girls who can now see that being involved with top football is not only a dream but a realistic opportunity.”
The Barclays FA Women’s Super League returns next week with two midweek fixtures as West Ham United host Aston Villa (20 April) before a top of the table clash between Manchester City and Chelsea (21 April). Both games kick-off at 6pm live on BT Sport.Opta Special – Ten years of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League