Comparison of the domestic structure of Indian women with the league system of the top five European countries
India is set to compete in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup which begins in January in India.
The Blue Tigresses are currently ranked 56th in the world and 13th in Asia. India has only one women’s top division competition, the Indian Women’s League (IWL) which started in 2016. But unlike most of the top ranked nations in the world of football, they don’t organize no cup competition.
Among the top ranked European countries, the Netherlands have a leading closed league like India, where there is no promotion or relegation. But they have two other divisions, where amateur clubs participate.
Here we take a look at the national league structures of the top five ranked teams in Europe – Sweden, Germany, France, Netherlands and England.
Damallsvenskan is the premier division of women’s football in Sweden. The league was formed in 1988 and FC Rosengard is the most successful team in league history with 12 titles to its name. They also won the 2021 edition of the league. 12 teams participate in the league and a total of 132 matches are played in the Premier League. The 2021 season was played between April 2021 and November 2021. The least well placed team is relegated to the second division which is called Elitettan. The Damallsvenskan champion and finalist teams advance to the second round of the UEFA Women’s Champions League while the third team advance to the first round.
Besides the first two divisions, there are six other divisions which are all regional leagues. There are no cup competitions in the country.
In Germany there are three main divisions in the pyramid of women’s football. Below the three divisions there are six other levels where the local leagues are held. The Frauen-Bundesliga which was established in 1990 is the first division league followed by the Frauen-Bundesliga and the Frauen-Regionalliga.
12 teams participate in the first division while in the second division 14 clubs participate. A total of 132 matches are played in the first division and take place from August to May. In the third division, 70 clubs are divided into five leagues equally (Regionalliga Nord, Regionalliga Nordost, Regionalliga Ouest, Regionalliga Sudwest, Regionalliga Sud). The DFB Cup is the German Cup competition for women’s football.
The 2021-22 Frauen-Bundesliga season kicked off in August 2021 with Bayern Munich currently leading the league with 28 points from 12 matches. The champions advance directly to the group stages of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, while the teams placed second and third advance to the second and first rounds of the Champions League respectively.
In France, there are four divisions in the women’s league system. Division 1 Feminine is the premier league where 12 teams participate with a total of 132 games played in the league. The league runs from August to May. In Division 2, 20 teams are divided into two equally divided groups and in Division 3, 40 clubs are divided into four groups with 10 teams in each group. The fourth division includes several regional leagues.
The Women’s Division 1 was formed in 1974. The 2021/22 season started in August 2021 and the defending champions are Lyon. The champions will advance directly to the group stages of the UEFA Women’s Champions League while the teams placed second and third will advance to the second and first rounds of the Champions League play-offs respectively.
Three divisions form the league system of women’s football in the Netherlands. The Eredivisie is the country’s premier league league, followed by Topklasse and Hoofdklasse. It should be noted that only amateur clubs participate in the second and third divisions. The Eredivisie is a closed league without promotion or relegation. 72 matches are played in the Premier League and it takes place from August to May. Besides leagues, Dutch clubs also play in the KNVB Women’s Cup, the country’s premier cup competition.
The Eredivisie was established in 2007 and was temporarily closed in 2012 when the Royal Dutch Football Association or the KNVB decided to launch the BeNe league in collaboration with the Belgian Football Association. The league was shut down after only three years when the Eredivisie was restarted in 2015. Nine teams participate in the Premier League while 12 teams each participate in the Second and Third Divisions.
The 2021/22 edition of the Eredivisie kicked off in August 2021 and Ajax currently lead the table with 25 points in 12 games followed by FC Twente. The top two teams advance to the first round of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
There are five levels in the England women’s football league system. The FA Women’s Super League (WSL) is the country’s premier league league, followed by the FA Women’s Championship. In the third division there are two leagues, the FA Women’s National League North and South. The FA Women’s National League is the fourth division and after which there are the regional and county leagues which form the fifth division. 12 teams participate in each league.
In the Women’s Super League, 12 teams participate and a total of 132 matches are played. The league runs from August to May.
The WSL was formed in 2011 and has grown into the country’s premier division competition. Chelsea are the most successful team with four titles to their name and are also the defending champions.
The 2021/22 WSL season kicked off in September 2021 and Arsenal currently lead the table with 25 points from nine matches, followed by Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in third and fourth, respectively. The champions and finalists will advance to the second round of the UEFA Women’s Champions League while the third team will advance to the first round of the Champions League.
Besides the leagues, the clubs also participate in two cup competitions, the FA Women’s Cup and the FA WSL Cup. The FA Women’s Cup, like the men’s tournament, takes place every season between September and May.
The Indian Women’s League (IWL) was formed in 2016 and so far four seasons have been conducted. Gokulam Kerala is the reigning champion who first won the title in the 2019-20 season.
In the inaugural edition six teams participated but in the last season 12 teams participated in the league. The 12 teams were split into two groups of six clubs each. After the round robin stage, the top two teams from each group advanced to the knockout stage. As of 2020, the IWL has not been conducted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.