Copsewood, the Coventry-based Premier League club, have secured their future after moving their home to qualify for a switch to the league’s northern division.
The club had warned they might have to fold if the FAW Premier League did not agree to move them from the southern division, mounting a high-profile publicity campaign to aid their cause.
But in the end they solved their own crisis by upping sticks and moving the club 10 miles north to Nuneaton.
They have told the league that they will play at Nuneaton Town’s Liberty Way stadium, meaning they will now be based roughly five miles north of rivals Coventry City, who move back into the southern division as a result.
It’s a practical solution to a worrying problem for the Copsewood club, who felt they were losing players because of the lengthy journeys to away matches in the southern league.
But despite their campaign, league chairman Carol West says they would not have succeeded if they had not elected to move.
She told Sent Her Forward: “The issue was really quite straightforward. Copsewood will play all home matches at Nuneaton Town next season, meaning Coventry City will be the southernmost out of the two.
“Had Copsewood stayed at their old ground (in Binley, south-east of the city), they would have remained southernmost and therefore would have had to stay in the southern division.”
Copsewood manager Ryan Conneely says the switch has saved the club. “Without this move we would have folded, as it would have meant remaining in the Southern Prem,” he said.
“We will be playing all our [home] league games this season at the Liberty Way stadium, which is a fantastic facility. I hope that the move enables us to attract more players. Their facilities are among the best in the Midlands.”
Now Coventry City – who have just lost their manager, Craig Nicholls, and his assistant, Joe Robinson – will have to reprogramme their sat-navs to places like Plymouth, Cardiff, Brighton and Portsmouth, although it didn’t seem to do them too much harm the last time they were in the southern division in 2013/14 – winning the title on the last day of the season.
City have declined to respond formally to the FAWPL decision, saying only: “We’re looking forward to renewing acquaintances with our friends in the south.”
But Carol West said: “Coventry have accepted the decision without any issue, as common sense dictates on this one.”
As well as Coventry City, there are two other new faces in next season’s Premier League Southern, the winner of which will again compete against the northern division champions for a possible place in the 2017 Women’s Super League 2.
C&K Basildon and Forest Green Rovers join the fray after winning Division 1 South East and South West respectively.
Gillingham and Keynsham Town drop down to take their places after their relegations were confirmed.
Meanwhile, Copsewood will be joined in the northern division by two foxy newcomers – Guiseley Vixens and Loughborough Foxes, winners of Northern and Midlands Division 1.
With champions Sheffield FC being promoted to WSL2, only one club are relegated from the northern division – Wolverhampton Wanderers – providing a reprieve for Newcastle United, who finished second from bottom.
The new-look FAW Premier League
|FAWPL Southern||FAWPL Northern|
|Cardiff City||Copsewood Coventry|
|Charlton Athletic||Derby County|
|Coventry City||Guiseley Vixens|
|Forest Green Rovers||Huddersfield Town|
|Plymouth Argyle||Newcastle United|
|QPR||Preston North End|
|Tottenham Hotspur||Sporting Club Albion|
|West Ham United||Stoke City|
But there is more of a shake-up in the Premier Reserves League, where the southern division is split into two.
West explained: “Our reserve structure has grown, meaning there will be 14 southern-based teams. As we cannot exceed 12 teams in any division, we have had to split the southern side into two divisions.”
Last season’s 12-club set-up, where each side played 22 league fixtures, has been replaced by two divisions of seven. They will play each other three times, meaning a total of 18 games.
The new Premier Reserves Southern division is missing four of last season’s top five – Charlton Athletic, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace, who all join the new London division.
Brighton, Chichester City, Gillingham, Lewes and Portsmouth are joined by Southampton Saints, who are fielding a reserve side in the league next season, and Maidenhead United, whose first team are one of four new teams in Division 1 South West.
The London reserves division is completed by Bedford, C&K Basildon and Queens Park Rangers.
FAW Premier Reserves League 2015/16
|Chichester City||C&K Basildon|
|Southampton Saints||West Ham United|
Southampton, Shanklin and Chichester City face the worst of the travelling in next season’s Division 1 South West, where the preponderance of teams from the West Country is now supplemented by the arrival of Gloucester, Keynsham Town and Swindon Spitfires.
In Division 1 South East, Gillingham – relegated from the Premier League Southern – and the two promoted sides, Lowestoft Town and Old Actonians, join the fray.
Both divisions are now up to the maximum of 12 sides, suggesting there will be a relegation to avoid next season.
Fixtures are due to be published next month, and the seasons will begin on August 16.
The FAW Premier League’s second tier (southern) 2015/16
|FAWPL Div 1 SW||FAWPL Div 1 SE|
|Exeter City||Crystal Palace|
|Keynsham Town||Enfield Town|
|Maidenhead United||Ipswich Town|
|Southampton Saints||Luton Town|
|St Nicholas||MK Dons|
|Swindon Spitfires||Norwich City|
|Swindon Town||Old Actonians|
Meanwhile, West has played down suggestions that the Premier League could soon switch to the summer, to bring it in line with the FAW Super League.
On our way back from @FAWPL_ AGM progress being made,FA commitment to review Summer and Winter leagues in the near future. 👍👍⚽️⚽️
— Lewes Ladies FC (@LewesLadiesFC) June 20, 2015
The league chairman told Sent Her Forward: “The tweets around moving football seasons were based on nothing more than a general conversation around the women’s game.
“Any alteration to the structure of the women’s game would be dealt with by the FA, and from the conversations [at the agm] there is certainly nothing on the cards any time soon.”