In April 2021, The Barclays WSL celebrated its 10th birthday. Over the ten years, the league has gone from strength to strength, with iconic moments, players, coaches, officials, and many behind the scenes working tirelessly to grow the women’s game.
This was the deadline set for clubs to submit their applications into The FA for entry into the Barclays Women’s Super League. Sixteen clubs applied - with eight going on to be successful and contest the first season 15 months later.
Barclays Women’s Super League launches with eight founding member clubs in April 2011. Chelsea’s Helen Ward kicks the first ball in the competition in the opening fixture that saw Arsenal defeat the Blues away from home 1-0 at Tooting and Mitcham Football Club, thanks to a goal from defender Gilly Flaherty. The game was also available on TV, having been screened live on ESPN.
Alex Scott and Kelly Smith returned from the U.S. to rejoin Arsenal after three years with Boston Breakers, following the suspension of the WPS league in the United States. “It feels like they’re ‘coming home’,” said former Arsenal head coach, Vic Akers.
The PFA announces that full membership will be available for all registered Barclays WSL players from the start of the 2013 season. It also sees the inaugural PFA Women's Players' Player of the Year Award – won by Arsenal’s Kim Little – featured at the PFA Awards held on 28th April 2013. The Barclays WSL's presence was extended further at the 2014 PFA Awards adding Women's Young Player of the Year and also giving female players the chance to nominate their Barclays WSL Team of the Year.
BT Sport hosts the launch of the Barclays WSL 1 & 2 after the league expands to add a second division that will see promotion and relegation between the two competitions (the Barclays WSL 2 is now known as the Barclays Women’s Championship). The launch is held at their studios to celebrate the unprecedented level of coverage they will offer the league going forward (with 14 live games and 17 review shows - one a week). BT Sport would act as a lead partner, of the Barclays WSL and a broadcast partner alongside the BBC.
The most dramatic finale to the league yet witnessed as Liverpool retained their trophy, on +2 goal difference, with the Barclays WSL trophy hovering between three different locations and the three potential winners. The Reds started third – three points behind leaders Chelsea – but defeated Bristol Academy 3-0, while the Blues lost 2-1 at Manchester City. Birmingham began the day two points behind Chelsea, but could only draw 2-2 at home to Notts County. Blues’ agony included having a Karen Carney penalty saved in spectacular fashion by Carly Telford. The three-way fight to the title was available to watch on BT Sport 2 and via a special free-to-view live stream on BT Sport’s website. BBC Radio 5 Live covered all of the breathless action from ground-to-ground too.
The Barclays WSL’s seventh edition was the first to run as a winter league, starting in September and running till May. The transition aligned itself with the men’s calendar and importantly, the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Barclays Women’s Super League entered a new full-time, professional era. Manchester United reformed their women’s team and entered the second tier Championship, while the top three tiers of the women’s pyramid were rebranded. Barclays WSL was restructured to a one-tier, 11-team league. Brighton and West Ham United joined the top-flight after successful bids.
Barclays are announced as title sponsors of the Barclays Women’s Super League, the multi- million-pound deal marking the biggest ever investment in UK women’s sport by a brand. The partnership saw the introduction of an annual £500,000 prize fund for the league (to be distributed based on final league position) as well as increased marketing - games were advertised on billboards and digital screens across the country. There was also a commitment to drive the growth of grassroots football, with a focus on increasing opportunities for girls to play the game.
The First Women’s Football Weekend launched, placing a spotlight on the women’s game during the men’s international window. With local derbies, fierce rivalries and matches in state-of-the-art stadia, Women’s Football Weekend promised to be another landmark moment in the rapid growth of the women’s game. During the weekend, a new Barclays WSL record crowd of 38,262 was achieved at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Arsenal won 2-0 in the North London derby.
The FA announce a groundbreaking broadcast deal with Sky Sports and the BBC that will see the Barclays Women’s Super League become more visible than ever. This will include 57 live games per season being shown across Sky’s football channels and BBC’s mainstream stations, bringing both significant investment and access.
The Barclays Women’s Super League reached one of its first significant landmarks on the 13 April 2021 by turning ten years old. On the 13 April 2011, Chelsea and Arsenal stepped onto the field at Tooting & Mitcham Football Club to kick-off the very first match in the league, with the Blues’ Helen Ward kicking the first ball in the competition, and Arsenal’s Gilly Flaherty scoring the first goal in a 1-0 win for the Gunners in front of 2,510 fans. What has followed has been a ten-year journey that started with an eight team, semi-professional competition, that has developed into a fully professional 12 team league with added exposure and an ever-increasing audience. Teams have gone full-time, players have become household names, and some of the best talent has come through the England pathway, as well as from abroad. In addition, the league was made more accessible than ever with the launch of the FA Player in August 2019, which provides live streams, highlights and features from across the Barclays Women’s Super League.