Belles plot legal route as appeal fails

Doncaster Belles will play outside the top tier for the first time since 1991
Doncaster Belles will play outside the top tier for the first time since 1991

Doncaster Rovers Belles are considering legal action against the Football Association after their appeal against demotion from the Women’s Super League was dismissed.

The Belles will play outside women’s football’s top flight for the first time since the formation of the National League in 1991.

But the game’s most iconic club may not yet let the matter lie and are consulting their legal team to explore whether legal action can be taken.

The Independent Appeals Panel appointed by the FA concluded the process the sport’s governing body had put in place did not permit the Belles to challenge the discretion to offer places in the new Women’s Super League One next season.

After accepting applications for WSL1, the FA decided to keep all the clubs currently playing in the Women’s Super League with two exceptions: Lincoln Ladies would be ‘re-franchised’ as Notts County while the Belles would be replaced with Manchester City.

The FA initially decided not to offer the Belles a place in WSL1 because the club could not meet minimum facility requirements.

And there were also concerns over commercial and marketing strategies.

It is believed the issue with facilities was due to the Belles not having control over the Keepmoat and being considered third on the list of priority teams following Rovers and the Dons.

The demotion of the Belles saw a protest movement sparked with more than 9,000 people signing a petition against the decision.

It also saw legal experts volunteer their services to the club to help the appeal to attempt to overturn the ruling.

One of the main points of contention with the decision was Manchester City had been given a straight route to the top despite having only finished fourth in the Women’s Premier League last term, clearly suggesting ‘football reasons’ were not a major priority of the application process.

Also, the timing of the decision saw the Belles effectively relegated after just one game of the current WSL campaign, rendering the rest of their season meaningless.

After announcing the failure of the appeal the FA confirmed the offer of a place in the new ten team WSL2 is still open to the Belles.

Belles vice chairman Alan Smart said: “The club are naturally gutted but we remain committed to our core values.

“We shall continue to fight to uphold our belief in a sporting competition where results are determined on the field of play and plan for the future as a club that supports its local community and respects its responsibilities for the game as a whole.

“After all, those here now are mere custodians of what will continue to be a true icon of the women’s game.”