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Responsibility and Progress: The English Football Association's Professionalisation of the Women's Game

Beth Fielding-Lloyd (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
Donna Woodhouse (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)

Women’s Football in a Global, Professional Era

ISBN: 978-1-80071-053-5, eISBN: 978-1-80071-052-8

Publication date: 9 March 2023


Launched in 2011, the Women's Super League (WSL) has raised the media profile of women's football in England, benefitted from greater sponsorship investment and signalled, for the first time, a more co-ordinated effort by the Football Association (FA) to develop the game from grassroots to international level. However, whilst the FA's insistence that the WSL's future is best secured by clubs aligning themselves with male ‘parent’ clubs has led to more buy-in from English Premier League (EPL) clubs, some historically established women's clubs have been excluded from the highest echelons of the sport or even folded. Clubs' heavy reliance of volunteerism has been retained and salaries, even for internationally capped players, remain modest. There have been criticisms of player welfare (Taylor, 2018b), inadequate support for players' facing racist and sexist abuse (Gornall & Magowan, 2019), poor support for competition structuring (Wrack, 2018a) and a marketing strategy that is centred on heteronormative notions of family (Fielding-Lloyd, Woodhouse, & Sequerra, 2018). Popular discourses have heralded the professionalisation of women's football as evidence of significant progress in gender equality in the sport and as signposting an unequivocally positive future for the game. This chapter will critically assess the FA's conceptualisations of WSL as a neo-liberal project that has not consistently worked in the best interests of all players, clubs and fans and examine the FA's commitment to, and responsibility for, the development of the female game at elite club level.



Fielding-Lloyd, B. and Woodhouse, D. (2023), "Responsibility and Progress: The English Football Association's Professionalisation of the Women's Game", Culvin, A. and Bowes, A. (Ed.) Women’s Football in a Global, Professional Era (Emerald Studies in Sport and Gender), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 17-31.



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