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FFF plots rehaul of women’s top-flight D1 Arkema with new playoff system

Top four clubs to compete in knockout tournament to determine title winner.

14 April 2023 Josh Sim

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  • FFF pledge to increase funding in women’s game by up to 25%
  • Overhaul announced amid newly launched rights tender that also covers women’s national team

The Division 1 Arkema title winner is to be determined using a playoff system from next season onwards as part of a women’s soccer revamp planned by the French Football Federation (FFF).

The new competition structure will see the league’s top four clubs meet in two semi-finals before the two winning teams face off in a one-off final a week later to become French champions. Both finalists alongside the winner of a third-place play-off will qualify for the following year’s Uefa Women’s Champions League.

It is one of several reforms planned by the FFF, which has also pledged to increase funding of the women’s game by 20 to 25 per cent. The organisation also plans to slim down the second-tier Division 2 Féminine to 12 teams from the current size of 24, while also creating a third-tier league which would consist of two groups of 12 clubs.

Also on the agenda for the FFF is to push for top-flight clubs to open training centres to help develop younger players. The new facilities would need to match the same criteria implemented for men’s training structures, while those with training centres will be able to apply for a license to play a reserve team in the newly created third division. Six applications have been lodged already, including from domestic giants Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain.

In addition, the federation has launched a broadcast rights tender for the next four years, which covers every D1 game, the Champions Trophy and matches featuring the French national team until 2027. The winning broadcaster would need to show ten league fixtures free-to-air (FTA) per season.

SportsPro says…

Since 1992, the French top flight has implemented a home-and-away format, before going fully professional in 2009. However, D1 crowds have begun lagging behind rival leagues in England and Germany, with just 13,400 attending at this season’s most high profile game between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain. By contrast, 47,367 fans were at Arsenal’s Women’s Super League (WSL) match against Tottenham Hotspur.

The reforms announced by the FFF indicate a reset on women’s soccer. While scrutiny has been focused on the national team’s management, which resulted in the sacking of head coach Corinne Diacre, the federation sees a greater opportunity to transform the domestic game, while injecting excitement into the product through the use of a playoff system to decide the country’s domestic champions.

It appears as if the FFF is belatedly following the trend seen around Europe’s major soccer nations of seeking to commercialise the women’s game. In England and Spain, the national soccer bodies have sought, with varying degrees of success, to create a more appealing product for the buy side of the industry. By launching a tender that also includes national team games, the FFF is hoping that it can appeal to broadcasters by offering them complete ownership of the women’s game.

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