Women's Super League: Brighton earn WSL 1 licence, Yeovil retain top-tier place

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Powell's hopes for new WSL 1 club Brighton

Brighton will join the top tier of English women's football in 2018-19 and become a full-time, professional club, after a successful licence application.

Yeovil Town retained top-flight status, along with the eight other Women's Super League One clubs who applied.

That ensures 10 clubs have a place in WSL 1 as part of the league's restructure but that number may rise to up to 14.

Teams wanting to play in the top tier had to meet new professional criteria, including running a youth academy.

With a total of 14 top-tier slots available, clubs from outside the WSL will be invited to bid for the four remaining spots before early March 2018.

There will also be up to five additional spots available in WSL 2, after seven sides successfully retained their second-tier status, with a maximum of 12 places in next season's second division.

The following teams have been awarded licences for the top two tiers next term:

  • Tier One: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea Ladies, Everton Ladies, Liverpool Ladies, Manchester City, Reading Women, Yeovil Town.
  • Tier Two: Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies, Tottenham Hotspur.

The Football Association said that all of the clubs were offered a place in the tier for which they applied.

Which clubs did not apply?

WSL 1 side Sunderland opted not to apply during the first wave of applications, instead stating their intention to submit a collaborative bid in March for tier one, should any top-tier slots be available.

Of the 10 existing WSL 2 clubs, Watford and Oxford United chose not to apply to play in either tier, but the U's - similar to Sunderland - intend to reconsider their position in March.

The leagues could also be rebranded, with consultation work on possible names for England's top divisions ongoing.

The traditional methods of promotion and relegation were scrapped for the 2017-18 season only and the WSL, which is run by the FA and is only open to English teams, recently transitioned from a summer season to a winter calendar.

Doncaster Rovers Belles are top of WSL 2 after six games of the campaign, but said they would apply for a second-tier licence because the criteria for tier one was "beyond their means".

What does the new top-tier criteria require?

The new, entirely full-time top-flight women's league - a rarity in European women's football - will require clubs to provide:

  • A minimum of 16 contact hours per week for players, rising to 20 hours per week by 2020-21.
  • A minimum level of financial investment from the club, while meeting Financial Fair Play regulations and a squad cap.
  • A youth academy at each club, and continued rules restricting the number of non-English qualified players in matchday squads.

Second-tier sides will be required to run a reserve team, but not necessarily a youth academy.

Lady Glovers 'couldn't be happier'

Yeovil Town celebrate promotion
Yeovil won promotion from Women's Super League Two in October 2016

Bottom of WSL 1 and having openly admitted their need to raise funds to meet the new criteria, Yeovil had faced the most nervous wait to learn which division they will place in next term.

The club's general manager, Trevor Jenkins, told BBC Somerset: "It is huge news. We couldn't be more happy.

"We have had a bit of adversity to get over and had to work really hard to pull this application together, so it is terrific.

"The amount of support that we have had has been incredible and we have so many people to thank. The hard work for everyone begins now."

Meanwhile, Bristol City have said their offer is "conditional", with the FA stating that some clubs' licences are dependent on the club ensuring that certain requirements are met.

Newcomers Brighton to play at Crawley Town

Brighton - who are part of the WSL's two-tier system for the first time in 2017-18 after being promoted in 2016 - will play their home games at Crawley Town's Checkatrade Stadium home next term, as part of their application.

Albion chief executive Paul Barber said in a statement: "This is absolutely fantastic news, and is testament to the hard work from everyone at the club in ensuring we had the best possible application.

"We have always wanted to achieve equal status for women's and girls' football at the club, and acquiring tier one status will now enable us to make this a reality."

Managed by former England and Great Britain boss Hope Powell, Brighton are fourth in WSL 2 after three wins from five league games so far this term, behind second-placed Durham on goal difference.

You can now add WSL 1 notifications for line-ups, goals, kick-off, half-time and results in the BBC Sport app. Visit this page to find out how to sign-up.

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