Women's Super League History
The Women's Super League (WSL) is the highest tier of women's football in England. The League, run by the Football Association (FA) and sponsored by Barclays, currently consists of twelve professional teams.
The FA WSL was first introduced in 2011 to replace the FA Women's Premier League National Division as the highest division of women's football. Initially, the league was played across the summer months.
Of the sixteen teams that applied, eight teams were selected to take part in the WSL's inaugural season: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Chelsea, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Everton, Lincoln Ladies and Liverpool.
In 2014, a second division, the FA WSL 2, was introduced featuring ten teams. Doncaster Rover Belles were relegated to the WSL 2 and Manchester City were awarded a place in the top division, the then named, WSL 1.
In 2016 a team from the then FA Women's Premier League earned promotion into the WSL 2, connecting the WSL to the the leagues lower down in the football pyramid. It was also announced in 2016 that the WSL would become a winter league as per tradition with English football.
Prior to the 2018-2019 season, the WSL 1 became fully professional and was renamed as the FA Women's Super League. Teams had to re-apply to participate, form youth academies and offer players a minimum of 16 hour a week contracts. At this time, Sunderland were demoted to the third tier of the pyramid. Brighton and Hove Albion and West Ham United were moved into the WSL. The WSL 2 was renamed as the FA Women's Championship at this time.
The league was then extended further before the 2019-2020 season with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur gaining promotion from the Championship, taking the the total number of teams to twelve. The FA also launched the FA Player enabling access to live WSL games for free to audiences worldwide.
Sky Sports and the BBC confirmed a landmark deal with the FA to broadcast the WSL in 2021.
Both the Women's Super League and Women's Championship were 're-branded' in 2022 to the Barclays Women's Super League and Women's Championship, dropping the FA status. As of 2022 both leagues still consist of 12 teams and are run by the FA.