Doncaster Rovers Belles will plead for a ‘pragmatic’ outcome when their high-profile feud with the Football Association reaches boiling point next week.
The eyes of the football world will be on Tuesday’s appeal hearing at Wembley when the Belles will bid to preserve their 22-year top flight status.
The FA’s controversial decision to demote Doncaster to a new FA Women’s Super League (FAWSL) second flight - and promote mega-rich Manchester City - has courted worldwide publicity and cast a huge shadow over the women’s game in England.
Belles representatives, including a top legal team, will contest that the club DO meet the stringent criteria for inclusion in FAWSL1.
They will also push the game’s governing body to reconsider plans to limit the number of teams in FAWSL1 to eight and lobby for a TEN-TEAM top flight.
Belles’ bid to remain in the top division is believed to have fallen short in three areas: stadium ownership and providing a guarantee that games will go ahead on given dates, the percentage of turnover spent on players’ wages, and corporate governance.
But Doncaster will base their appeal on the fact they have seemingly been relegated for non-footballing reasons - something which has infuriated football fans all over the world - and they will seek a pragmatic solution.
The FA could yet hand Belles a lifeline by agreeing to a nine-team top flight and nine-team second division, as opposed to eight and ten respectively.
Meanwhile, there are fears about what relegation could mean for Belles in the long term, with a real threat that players will be ‘picked off’ by top flight clubs.
Boss John Buckley told the Free Press: “The support we’ve had is phenomenal. Alan [Smart, vice chairman] is working really hard and we’ve just got to keep our fingers crossed.
“Whichever way the decision goes, the club has some important decisions to make looking forward.”