Doncaster Rovers Belles: Demotion appeal dismissed

The Belles will play outside women’s football’s top flight for the first time in national league history after the Football Association dismissed their appeal against demotion.

The Independent Appelas Panel appointed by the FA concluded that the process did not permit the Belles to challenge the FA’s discretion to offer places in the new Women’s Super League One.

The ruling means that following the current season, the Belles will be outside the top flight for the first time since the National League was formed in 1991.

The Belles are now exploring whether further legal action can be taken following the decision.

The FA initially decided not to offer the Belles a place in WSL1 because the club could not meet minimum facility requirements.

And there were also concerns over commercial and marketing strategies.

It is believed the issue with facilities was due to the Belles not having control over the Keepmoat and being considered third on the list of priorities following Rovers and the Dons.

The FA confirmed the offer of a place in WSL2 is still open to the Belles.

Belles vice chairman Alan Smart said: “The whole club are naturally gutted but we remain committed to our core values.

“We shall continue to fight to uphold our belied in a sporting competition where results are determined on the field of play and plan for the future as a club that supports its local community and respects its responsibilities for the game as a whole.

“After all, those here now are mere custodians of what is and will continue to be a true icon of the women’s game.”

The full FA statement reads as follows:

“Following a hearing this week in front of an Independent Appeals Panel, The FA can confirm that Doncaster Rovers Belles FC has been unsuccessful in its appeal to retain its place in FA WSL1 following a decision not to offer the club a licence to compete in the top domestic women’s league from the 2014 season onwards.

“The FA would also like to confirm that the licence offer to compete in The FA WSL2 next season is still open to the club, subject to licence criteria that still needs to be met.

“The decision by the selection panel not to offer the club an FA WSL1 license was due primarily to them being unable to satisfactorily meet minimum facility requirements, alongside further concerns on their commercial and marketing strategies.

“We look forward to continue working with Doncaster Rovers Belles FC and all our FA WSL clubs, who play a vital role alongside us in our commitment to continue to develop and build the women’s game in England.

“The FA will now take time to fully consider the written reasons for the outcome, as outlined today by the Appeals Panel, before commenting any further.”