DONCASTER Rovers Belles could next year find themselves outside women’s football’s top flight for the first time in two decades, writes Hayley Paterson.
The Football Association have re-opened the application process for the Women’s Super League (FAWSL) which will see a second division launched in 2014.
And despite the club’s status as the grand old dame of women’s football, there are fears the Belles could be pushed out of the top tier by big name and big money rivals.
Belles officials are nevertheless pursuing a place at the top table, feeling they are capable of competing with the big spenders.
And manager John Buckley (pictured) says it would be ‘a travesty’ if the club was not selected for the WSL1.
He told the Free Press: “There’s no question that we will be going for the top flight – we have to and we’ve never been in any doubt about that.
“The hard part will be challenging the teams with money behind them.
“Smaller clubs are finding it increasingly hard to bring in the types of players other clubs can with their vast amounts of money, it’s difficult.
“You only have to look at Liverpool who have brought in top internationals from America, Germany and Iceland and ask ‘How can we compete with that?’
“But I believe we will be able to, we’re there to challenge these types of clubs.
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“We have a young side who are capable of competing at this level and it’s testament to them that they give as good as they get against clubs with more money than us.
“We’ve enjoyed being a part of the Super League and want to be in the best division we can be.
“It would be a travesty if we weren’t in the top flight but we’re confident in our application, especially with our strong emphasis on youth players.”
The FA is pleased with the progress made over the first two years of the FAWSL and is very keen to expand, bringing Premier League powerhouses such as Sunderland and Leeds into the Super League family.
Up to 20 clubs will be selected and split over WSL1 and WSL2 with promotion and relegation introduced.
The Belles have struggled for positive results in the first two seasons of the FAWSL, finishing seventh of eighth in both campaigns.
This is largely attributed to a large imbalance in finances from club to club.
As part of the new round of applications, clubs must also have a second XI which will play in a regional FAWSL reserve league.
Meanwhile, following the acquisitions of Liverpool forward Cheryl Foster and Lincoln goalkeeper Nicola Hobbs, Buckley revealed he is looking to bring in another couple of players particularly to strengthen the Belles midfield.
He said: “We’re looking at a few players.
“With Emma Thomson coming back from America too that’s almost like a new signing so that’s a big boost for us.
“I’d like to bring in another two or three players if possible.
“We need to strengthen the squad as a whole.”