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"I don't think anyone can contend with Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal"

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Liverpool Ladies manager Matt Beard says Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City will dominate the Women's Super League in the coming years.

Beard, who is set to join US side Boston Breakers at the end of the season, warned that clubs like Liverpool will soon struggle to compete against clubs with bigger budgets.

"I've taken Liverpool as far as I can," he told BBC Sport.

"I don't think anyone can contend with Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal."

He continued: "They've taken it to a different level with their investment."

Beard won back-to-back WSL1 league titles with Liverpool in 2013 and 2014, but has endured a disappointing campaign this year, with his side currently second from bottom with one game to go.

The club saw key players such as England duo Lucy Bronze and Gemma Davison leave at the start of the season and also suffered a large number of injuries.

Beard admits that while some clubs are stepping up their investment and player recruitment, others are getting left behind.

"You've only got to look at the players Chelsea have signed and look at what Arsenal did in the break and I'm sure they'll go again," he said.

"I think you're going to have a mini league with those three, with the rest trying to break into the middle and bottom spots, it'll be difficult."

Beard's comments came after his side were beaten 4-0 at home by Chelsea in their penultimate match.

The result ensured that this season's WSL1 title can now only be won by the West London side or Manchester City, with Arsenal the only other team capable of gaining a European football spot.

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I think he is unfortunately spot on. And if this vision of the future does come to pass then it is sadly too late to avoid it now. The time to work on keeping the financials under control is right at the beginning before the money even starts to flow. So I'm afraid the the ball is already rolling. I think the FA will come to rue their failure to implement more robust financial regulations. The current ones just aren't designed to promote parity in the true sense of the word and are not how you would or should go about it if you truly wanted competition.

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Given the amount of whinging which the FA do about the state of English football I find it absolutely astonishing that five years into their own league we are already taking about there being break away teams who nobody else can financially touch and in a division as small as this one is to boot.

They couldn't have had more data in front of them when creating the WSL if they had wanted it and yet still it appears they weren't able to design a league that was free of the nuisances which have ruined so many aspects of the game. They were banging the parity drum for years, we finally get there, and then what? Did they think they wouldn't need to artificially maintain it or something? It doesn't take a genius to figure out that once rich clubs start spending and get to the top they keep themselves up there by spending more and more.

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Laura Harvey talked about the competitive parity of the NWSL:

"You can't go and buy them and the team with the most money isn't going to win."
http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/34392491

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"The biggest difference is how things are managed off the field," she said.
"The players are not contracted to your club, they're contracted to the league which means they can be traded.
"You can't go and buy them and the team with the most money isn't going to win.

She is being extremely simplistic here.  She brought (read bought) players outside the NWSL over with her. Fishlock, Goebel, Kawasumi, Little may be contracted to the league but her club holds their rights so she actually did go out and buy players.  Also parity at the expense of players not being allowed to decide where they go is not worth it, just ask Leroux, Lloyd and countless other "no name players" who were "traded" without their knowledge to clubs they had no desire to go to.


So does Harvey think more British players should follow them to America?
"Without doubt Kim, Jess and Rachel have become better players since they've been here," she said.
"Coming to the US is an opportunity to develop but I think the reality is that because of the central contracts, countries want to develop their own leagues which I totally agree with.
"England players who are centrally contracted have a responsibility to help grow the WSL.

I don't agree that the quality of NWSL is that much better than the WSL. Are Little, Fishlock and Corsie really better players for being over in the NWSL or are they just better players than most of the Americans and are out shining them? One also can't forget that none of them were technically training full time until they moved to America so any betterment could be put down with consistent training instead of a better quality league. Also, Scotland with Little and Corsie lost to the Netherlands in world cup qualifying playoffs games and Wales with Fishlock were unable to finish second in their qualifiers to even be in the running for those playoff games. So would any of our England girls really benefit going over there again. Sanderson was actually having a harder time getting playing time at Arsenal than at any of her American clubs.


Is there an agenda about British players going over to America? Beard has been going on and on about the NWSL being a better league, Harding mentions them being the best league on BT sport last Sunday and now this article about Harvey saying how great the NWSL is and that England could potential win the world cup if our England players would go over. I couldn't disagree more, I think that the WSL for all it's fault is a damn good league and our England girls and hopefuls can progress just as much staying here as going to America. I also think that our girls work hard for their achievements and have a winning mentality as seen in Canada this year.

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I think the NWSL has many things going for it. But I also think it benefits from the whole romanticism of the playing in America thing, which exists on the back of previous iterations of their domestic game and not the current one. Let's face it, they could have any league out there and still people would list it as the place to be because once upon a time the US was. I'm not saying it isn't still up there, but I am saying the NWSL itself is put on a pedestal which has been borrowed as opposed to earned. Objectively speaking it is far from faultless in multiple respects; the main ones being low to non-existent wages for the majority and a questionable transfer system (although that is American sport in general). To a observing outsider it also appears to be treated like something of sideshow, and perhaps even going as far as to call it an inconvenience to the USSF/USWNT wouldn't be overstepping. 

The WSL is an almost complete opposite. It isn't respected to the degree it deserves to be because previous iterations of our domestic leagues were pretty poor in comparison to what was happening in other countries at the time. Where the NWSL automatically takes on the reputation of previous American leagues which were held in high esteem, the WSL is still largely viewed as if it were the WPL which nobody rightly rated. There is a very strange attitude in women's football which sees fans from other countries almost completely fail to notice or acknowledge progress is being made in other places. You see it all the time with the national team too. Watch any fans have a discussion about who is a worthy opponent for a friendly and England were seldom ever mentioned despite teams ranked lower than us making people's wishlists. It isn't until you do something which can't be missed that people realise you're there. And all of this is why I find it so frustrating when people who are actually from within English football speak about other places still being better. Because while that may be accurate it just feeds the false understanding that we haven't moved forward. 

So to bring my post back on topic - A lot of the problematic areas of the NWSL for example just aren't a factor here. We have good wages, the transfer system is the standard football system not the peculiar American sport way, our potential longevity is better purely because football is by far a more established sport, and so on and so forth. We do have the potential to put the WSL right at the top with the rest. But the whole thing hinges entirely on correctly navigating the next phase of the league's development and that the introduction of heavy investment. I don't like being pessimistic, but the early signs are not good.

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Thanks for sharing the article. There are some interesting tidbits:

"[The] wife of one Women’s Super League manager, whose team includes England players, was stuffing the team kit in the family washing machine as the club would not pay the £40 cost of the launderette."

"Arsenal are thought to be planning a bold response to being overtaken – but Liverpool, back-to-back reigning champions, appear to have scaled back. Manager Matt Beard, who quits after tomorrow’s match to work in the United States, recently tweeted a picture of himself stenciling the numbers on players’ shirts"

"[FA] will be considering the other issues in a post-season strategy review. As an indication of their commitment, the ongoing FA staff cuts will not affect those working in the women’s game."

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Why would Liverpool be scaling back? Stagnating sure, if the budget isn't being continually upped. But no Premier League affiliated side needs to reduce the way they are operating. And I don't think Beard printing shirts himself is an indication that they have.

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Guest wrote:"[FA] will be considering the other issues in a post-season strategy review.
We must have these post-season strategy reviews every year -- yet the fixture list continues to be a joke season after season. So why would anybody believe the FA could identify and resolve anything.

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It's a shame the potentially sustainable model of Birmingham (which is perhaps the only way of being genuinely sustainable) just isn't compatible with modern football in any way. I admire their determination to keep working at it but the truth is unless the men's side of the club become more interested than they currently are it's not likely to be a happy future for them no matter how hard the people on the women's side of things work. There are still plenty of clubs who you would think will one day be in a position to leapfrog them.

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Guest wrote:It's a shame the potentially sustainable model of Birmingham (which is perhaps the only way of being genuinely sustainable) just isn't compatible with modern football in any way. I admire their determination to keep working at it but the truth is unless the men's side of the club become more interested than they currently are it's not likely to be a happy future for them no matter how hard the people on the women's side of things work. There are still plenty of clubs who you would think will one day be in a position to leapfrog them.
It won't be a happy future if they genuinely believe what they have planned will make them able to compete with the breakaway three because they are setting themselves up to fail on that one. When even clubs who are PL affiliated who are investing a fair bit are saying they can't contend I'm really not sure how Birmingham think they could. And that's nothing to do with them, it's just that the league itself has changed now and only money is going to bridge the gap to the top.

But if they accepted that the top tier is not attainable, and yes that would mean lowering expectations and such like, but if they did that they could have happy future in which they are achieving the best they can and are content with it. It's all about acknowledging that you have a ceiling and where it lies.

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Unlike in England the on the continent, the NWSL modal emphasises financial independence. Yes, there are three teams with MLS owners, but they don't rely on the largesse of men's side. The more successful clubs also try to help the league to move ahead as a whole, instead of leaving the poorer teams in the dust. The experiment seems to be working so far at least. Although the salaries for non-star players can still be punishingly low, it's been inching up without hurting most teams' competitiveness and sustainability. Although it's next to impossible to emulate such a system here, some measures to ensure league-wide competitiveness would be nice.

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I can never decide if I'm a fan of the NWSL's allocation system. I don't suppose it matters though because it couldn't be replicated here anyway. It would however be possible - or would have been possible - to implement measures that encouraged the same positives which the NWSL's allocation system provides to that league. Things like the WSL's old salary cap for example. I think that cap, had it been kept, would have done a lot to promote player dispersal, certainly more so than the cap we switched to does. If anything, the new one has the complete opposite affect of the old and has got players gravitating towards the same clubs. I'm not sure why the cap was changed. It needed updating to increase the maximum limits but we didn't need an entirely different one imo.

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^ The old salary cap of no more than four players per team earning over 20k a season was a bit premature. It wasn't so much the cap itself which had players thinking well I might as well stay where I am because I won't earn more somewhere else, that was happening in part due to few clubs paying over 20k to more than four players in the first place. The maximum limit was set a little high for the state of play. 

But I liked that cap for the reason you just stated... it was one which could have grown with the league. When we got to the point where multiple clubs were maxed out you just up it to five players and 30k, or six players and 40k, or whatever combination of numbers suited. It allowed for collective steps forward when it was an appropriate time for the league to kick it up a notch. The new cap in contrast basically allows clubs to set their own individual pace and some are doing just that. In some ways it's not actually a cap at all.

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In some ways it's not actually a cap at all.
That's because it's only a cap for clubs that don't have big budgets. I totally agree that the old salary cap should have been kept with gradually bumping it up every level. I laugh at all the media and players saying this will be the most competitive season to date. Really? I can tell you now with 100% confidence who the top three clubs will be, I couldn't have been so certain the last few years.

Although the salaries for non-star players can still be punishingly low,
I can't imagine that the salaries for the non-star WSL players is any higher than in the NWSL.

I think one of the things that hurt the stability and growth of the WSL was adding promotion/relegation too soon. The clubs are more technically a franchise and if I remember correctly they all go to review in a couple of years to keep their WSL 1 & 2 status. IMO they should have waited at least 5 to 10 years for clubs to establish themselves before starting the relegation/promotional battle. The review process could have been bumped up to every other year to demote clubs that were financial unstable and to promote clubs that were financial stable. At least for the first five to ten years it shouldn't have been determined solely on results from the pitch.

It will be interesting to see how we fair in the Euros next year. I think the competitiveness of league in the last three to four years and England players more spread out among the clubs and playing full 90 minutes for almost every game helped us do so well in Canada. I can't help but think that stacking four teams with practically all of the England players with the other five teams with u-23 and non-star players won't be as useful in prepping us for Holland or the future for that matter.

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Guest wrote:I think one of the things that hurt the stability and growth of the WSL was adding promotion/relegation too soon. The clubs are more technically a franchise and if I remember correctly they all go to review in a couple of years to keep their WSL 1 & 2 status. IMO they should have waited at least 5 to 10 years for clubs to establish themselves before starting the relegation/promotional battle. The review process could have been bumped up to every other year to demote clubs that were financial unstable and to promote clubs that were financial stable. At least for the first five to ten years it shouldn't have been determined solely on results from the pitch.
Whether you set out to say after 10 years we will then... or whether you set out to say once X amount of clubs reach this point we will then... doesn't really matter because both would likely coincide in the same time frame. At the very least, promotion/relegation should not have been introduced until the desired number of clubs in WSL1 had been met. I find the whole relegating top division clubs whilst trying to increase the size of the top division truly baffling, not just because those two things work against each other but because the overall strength of this newly expanded division ends up being weaker than it would have been had you just retained all the clubs you had and added to them.

Three of the original eight WSL sides went down whether it be due to relegation or demotion. Birmingham could follow the same path. And nobody taking their place (with the exception of City and their money) were or will be more developed clubs than the ones they are replacing. We are demoting/relegating years of WSL1 progress in favour of clubs who have zero of that. And we are doing it at a time when clubs who do have years of WSL1 progress are saying even they still can't keep up with the breakaway three. scratch

I honestly can not understand where the positivity is coming from. I see a completely illogical mess when I look at the WSL's supposed development of the last two seasons in particular and what is coming next.

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This Spanish source has Arsenal's budget down as £1.8m/€2.3m

Which means that if my maths is correct their wage budget is £720k/€910k a year

http://en.as.com/en/2016/02/24/football/1456345652_821741.html

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That's a pretty hefty increase from just a couple of years ago when the rumoured figure for somebody in the league was less than half of that.

To try and put this into some wider European context I've seen Wolfsburg's budget stated as being £2.8mil/€3.5mil and PSG's as £5.1mil+/€6.5mil+

The pace some are going at it shouldn't be too long before they're matching Wolfsburg.

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It would make sense why all their current players are signing new contracts for the negotiated wage bump. Does anyone know how much either Chelsea or Man City's budgets are? I'd imagine that Arsenal are now the top in budget or damn near.

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Guest wrote:It would make sense why all their current players are signing new contracts for the negotiated wage bump. Does anyone know how much either Chelsea or Man City's budgets are? I'd imagine that Arsenal are now the top in budget or damn near.
It's hard to say what anybody is actually working with. The three of them are all capable of being in the same budget range but unless somebody from within wants to divulge we won't ever likely know.

And even if somebody did divulge it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that they would be embellishing to look better. For example, there is a difference between handout total and total budget. We don't know how much of Arsenal's £1.8m was given to them for this season and how much of it is actually just surplus cash that wasn't spent previously but carried over to the next year. I remember when Liverpool did their overhaul and everybody was lamenting them spending so much on that but very few clocked onto the fact they had spent barely anything in the two years prior and so were just using their surplus to catch up to the rest.

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