Derby County Football Club Women

Championship Application Process Leaves More Questions Than Answers

Whilst Ewe Rams CEO, Duncan Gibb is quick to congratulate Sunderland and Watford on their successful elevation to the FA Women’s Championship, he says that the club are both frustrated and disappointed with the process.

“Both the Black Cats and Hornets are diligently run clubs and we genuinely wish them every success next season; however the way in which the application process has been managed has to be quite honest, left more questions that it has answers. Due to the Covid situation and its associated impact on the game, it’s been a hugely challenging time for both clubs and the FA; however whilst we fully recognise that, things could and should have been managed more effectively.

“The process started at the back end of 2020, with clubs aspiring to join the Championship engaged in two workshops and provided with clear guidelines on both the information that would be sought within applications and the deadline for submission of that information. In terms of those guidelines, once they were issued, it appeared that much of it had not been updated and related to previous years, so we found ourselves having to go back to the FA to sense check various elements.”

“The season was subsequently voided after the deadline for applications had passed and following a consultation exercise, news came out that the FA were understandably keen to avoid a second year of non-movement between leagues and would be implementing an application process for movement between tiers 2-6. That made sense, however, we naturally assumed that applications would only apply to those clubs operating at tiers 4-6, given that a robust process had just been undertaken for clubs at tier 3 seeking to migrate to tier 2.”

“We were therefore both surprised and disappointed to learn that this process had been re-opened and an extended deadline date of the end of April advised, given that this would mean that clubs wouldn’t know the outcome until the end of May, thereby leaving players and staff in limbo. In addition to this it also meant that sponsorship deals were a lot harder to broker, during what is already a hugely challenging business marketplace at the moment.”

“A scoring system was then announced prior to the revised submission date, which instead of being weighted 50/50 in terms of both on-field performance and meeting the necessary off-field criteria required in order to operate a club at Championship level, was weighted 75/25 in favour of the former and based on the previous two seasons on-field performance. This basically allowed ourselves and others to undertake a simple scoring exercise, which in turn allowed clubs that hadn’t put themselves forwards within the initial application process to do so, knowing exactly what three quarters of their score would be and how it aligned to other clubs”

“We pretty much knew at that juncture that we’d narrowly miss out, despite having what we believed to be an excellent application on top of having a clear feel for the National League in terms of which clubs already operate like Championship ones. As a result, we did briefly consider whether to remove ourselves from the process in order to allow us to focus and align ourselves to another season at National League level; however, given what we’d put into it up to that point, we felt that would be morally wrong to do so, even though it left us in limbo for a further month.”

“Historically clubs present their applications to a panel at Wembley, and we were advised that this would be the case this year via an on-line platform. It’s always been a key part of the process and at the end of the day, people aren’t awarded jobs simply on the back of submitting an application form.  This element of the process usually sees good advance notice provided due to the work that needs to go into it; however, we were advised at eight days’ notice of our on-line presentation date.

The limited notice period presented issues, given that we needed to align the diaries of key club personnel; however, we managed to do so, and we were fortunate in that we’d already pulled the presentation together in readiness. Having done that we were subsequently disappointed to be advised by e-mail three days before the presentation that it had been cancelled, and that instead we had two days to respond to a number of clarifications.”

“As you can imagine, by this stage we were becoming frustrated, however that increased when we realised that the information sought to the majority of the clarifications was actually already sat within our application. Given that nine members of the clubs Operational and Governance Board plus senior coaching staff and the Rams TV team had contributed to what was a five week-long application project, it’s fair to say that this did not go down well and if I’m being totally honest it came as little surprise to subsequently find that the presentation never happened, and an announcement was simply made in terms of the clubs taken up, without us having the opportunity to put our case forward to the panel.”

“A number of clubs were very vocal in terms of their criticism of the FA when certain clubs were taken up in 2018; however, whilst we were disappointed not to be one of those taken up, we were fully supportive of both the FA and those clubs that they chose to take up. Once again, we have no issue with the outcome in terms of whose been taken up this time, and we can still reflect on a season of great success both on and off the field; however whilst recognising that this has been a strange 14 months all round, we feel that we have every right to feel annoyed at the way in which the Championship application process has been delivered this year, and to expect much better in terms of how its managed going forwards”