The new Women’s Super League kicks off with a match between Chelsea Ladies and Arsenal Ladies on Wednesday.
The Football Association used Wembley Stadium as a backdrop to launch the new three-million-pound semi-professional football league for women.
The Women’s Super League, to be played between April and October, will feature eight teams from across England competing for the inaugural title.
Teams from Arsenal, Birmingham, Bristol, Chelsea, Doncaster, Everton, Liverpool and Lincoln will play each other twice over 14 rounds.
If the league is successful, plans are in place for it to become fully professional within three years.
Arsenal and England captain Faye White credits the new league with attracting England internationals back from the US leagues and bringing in players from across the world, including the Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand.
England internationals Karen Carney and Katie Chapman have already returned from US clubs to play for Birmingham and Arsenal respectively.
“It’s semi-professional to start off with, girls will still have to have other jobs around it but it’s starting on a level which will allow it to grow rather than pitching it too high,” White said.
England coach Hope Powell is delighted the league is finally up and running after it was delayed by a year.
“It’s been a long time coming, the planning and the detail that’s gone into the planning, the fact that it was deferred for a year and the fact that it’s finally here I think gives the game a real big boost in this country,” Powell said.
“I think the fact that there are opportunities to be paid in the game, more so than ever before, it’s a career pathway for a lot of players that wasn’t there before. It can only be a good thing.”
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