Hampshire’s women’s football administrators are set to bridge the gap between youth and adult football in the county with the formation of an under-18 division.
The county FA is offering incentives – including cash – for clubs to enter the new league, subject to guarantees about commitment.
The move reflects the growing interest in the women’s and girls’ game in Hampshire, where its standout club, Premier League Portsmouth, have attracted some decent crowds to Havant, Gosport and the University of Portsmouth during outstanding performances in three competitions.
Martina Heath, the county’s officer with responsibility for the women’s and girls’ game, told Sent Her Forward: “At the moment most of the under-16 teams tend to go straight into the adult league or drop out due to the ‘jump’.
“So we decided to work with the Hampshire County Womens’ League to set this up for the 2014-15 season.
“We wanted to offer an incentive package to support the teams (who might otherwise fold) to continue. It will also help with the transition into the HCWL.”
Hampshire FA is hoping that many of the 22 affiliated under-16 sides that currently play in the county will make the step to under-18 level, as well as some of those from bordering counties who already play in leagues within Hampshire.
Among those who have already expressed an interest in joining are Southampton Girls, Petersfield, Winchester City, BTC, Corfe Mullen and Portsmouth, whose under-16 team lost in the final of its League Cup last Sunday.
The incentives being offered include free entry to the league plus £100 in each of the first two seasons of the competition plus coaching opportunities.
Ms Heath added: “Hampshire FA are always looking at different opportunities to increase and retain girls and women playing football within the county, and this is a priority area.
“So we intend to support [it] as best we can with the funding available to us.”
Interested under-16 clubs should contact Martina.Heath@HampshireFA.com for more details.