Manchester United get licence to play in women’s second tier

Manchester United get licence to play in women’s second tier
The English Football Association (FA) has approved Premier League side Manchester United’s application to form a team in the second-tier Women’s Championship, while league rivals West Ham will field a side in the elite Women’s Super League (WSL) for the 2018/19 season.

Manchester United Women will be based at the Red Devils’ academy training centre at The Cliff in Salford, once redevelopment work on the facility is completed.

United submitted an application to the FA to form a women’s team in March. The decision to approve the application was taken by the FA Women’s Football Board and followed a detailed review and assessment of all 15 applications which were received.

United have been without a senior women’s team for 13 years, after scrapping their women’s side in 2005. Ex-England international Casey Stoney is reportedly being lined up to manage the new team.

The club have faced criticism for not having an adult women’s side, with England women’s national team coach Phil Neville saying in January that he would discuss the matter with his former team.

Manchester United Women will compete in the Women’s Championship, alongside Aston Villa Ladies FC, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham Women FC, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies, Tottenham Hotspur Ladies, Charlton Athletic Women, and three more new teams – Leicester City Women, Lewes FC Women and Sheffield United Ladies. Charlton earned a spot after winning Sunday’s Women’s Premier League Championship play-off final.

Meanwhile, West Ham Women will compete in the new 11-team WSL alongside Arsenal, Birmingham City Ladies, Brighton & Hove Albion Women, Bristol City Women, Chelsea FC Women, Everton Ladies FC, Liverpool Ladies FC, Manchester City Women, Reading FC Women and Yeovil Town Ladies.

Current top-flight side Sunderland and second-tier Watford and Oxford are to drop out of England's top two tiers, while Southampton, Crystal Palace and Derby County were unsuccessful in their bids to join the new second division.

The news comes after the FA announced plans in September to reform the WSL, which will see a fully professional top tier introduced from the 2018/19 season.

Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s head of women’s football, said: “This announcement is the result of two years of planning and a milestone within our delivery of The Gameplan for Growth strategy. The revised competition structure will positively impact on the delivery of the women’s game across all levels, both on and off the pitch.

“Such is the strength of women’s football in this country, there have been some difficult decisions to make but they’ve been made with the sport’s best interests at heart. This is a hugely exciting time for the game and I am hopeful that we will look back upon this as one of the most significant decisions made in its history.”

Commenting on the news that Manchester United’s bid to enter a team in the second tier was successful, the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said: “The new women’s team will build on the success of the Girls’ Regional Talent Club and have the same philosophy as all Manchester United sides, creating a pathway from academy to first team.

“We will be making some exciting announcements in the coming days and weeks. Starting a professional team from scratch is challenging but rewarding and we will make every effort to provide the support and experience for the new women’s team to be successful and to uphold the fine traditions of our great club.”

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