Doncaster Rovers Belles have decided not to apply to become members of the new fully professional Women’s Super League which is due to begin in 2018-19.
The current two-division structure is being scrapped in favour of a single league of eight to 14 teams.
FAWSL2 leaders Belles said in a statement the new top tier is financially ‘beyond their means’. Instead they have applied for a Tier 2 licence.
“Our current league position suggests that in footballing grounds we would deserve a place in Tier 1,” said the club statement.
“However, the financial criteria set for entry into league 1 are simply beyond our means so we have applied for a Tier 2 Licence.
“The Belles chair, Faye Lygo, commented that the process was rigorous, with emphasis on financial sustainability and development of players.
“We have taken into account that teams who have operated beyond their means have recently gone into liquidation or announced that they will not be seeking a licence in the top leagues.
“We think our approach ensures the long term future of the Belles and we hope one day that performance on the field will trump money in the bank.”
Yeovil Town Ladies have applied for a top flight licence. Their general manager Trevor Jenkins warned in September that they needed to raise £350,000 to become professional.
FAWSL1 side Sunderland have decided not to apply for a top flight licence, while FAWSL2 outfit Watford are dropping out of the Super League set-up entirely.
Notts County Ladies, previously known as Lincoln Ladies, went out of business earlier this year. Belles applied to replace them in FAWSL1 but lost out in a bidding process to Everton.
Belles were one of the eight founder members of the inaugural FA Women’s Super League in 2011 but were controversially replaced in the top division by Manchester City in 2014. They won promotion back to FAWSL1 in 2015 but were relegated the following year with a record of one win and 15 defeats.
Commercial director Carl Lygo said in 2015 that the club had drawn up a ten-year plan aimed at being ‘the best women’s football team yet again’.
“Our philosophy at Belles remains the same, with our family ethos and a strong emphasis on development of women in football,” added Belles’ statement.
“We our proud of our coaching set up and our Development and RTC teams which are producing some excellent talent; our first team are having a strong season in WSL2 and are currently topping the table with an unbeaten run of League games; and off the pitch there is lots going on too.”