Women's Super League abandoned due to coronavirus with season to be decided on 'sporting merit'
The 2019-20 Women's Super League (WSL) has been ended early due to the coronavirus outbreak, it has been confirmed.
The top flight of English women's football will have its champions, plus matters of relegation and European qualification, decided on the basis of "sporting merit", the Football Association confirmed in a statement on Monday.
It has not yet been declared how "sporting merit" will be determined, with both Manchester City and Chelsea having claims to the championship.
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City were the league leaders when the season was initially postponed in March, however the Blues would be ranked first if the league was determined by points per game (PPG).
Bottom club Liverpool look set to be relegated, with their position the same both in current standings and PPG, while Aston Villa would be promoted as they lead the second-tier Championship on both metrics.
Regular title and European contenders Arsenal will miss out on the Champions League, with positions in the premier women's football continental club competition going only to the top two finishers in the league.
The FA's statement read: "The FA Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship Board has today confirmed the decision to end the 2019/20 season, with immediate effect.
"Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the board has been in regular consultation with clubs and key stakeholders from across both leagues to identify the most suitable and appropriate way to conclude the 2019/20 season, and to give clubs and players the clarity and support they need at this time.
"Following overwhelming feedback from the clubs, the decision to bring an end to the 2019/20 season was made in the best interest of the women’s game. This will also enable clubs, the board and the FA to plan, prepare and focus on next season when football returns for the 2020/21 campaign.
"Supporting the welfare of the clubs and players will continue to be our primary concern throughout this process, which also involved a robust and thorough examination of the logistical, operational and financial challenges that the game currently faces.
"The board has discussed various recommendations which will be sent to the FA to determine the most appropriate sporting outcome for the 2019/20 season. This will include identifying the entries for the 2020/21 UEFA Women’s Champions League, which would be based on sporting merit from the 2019/20 WSL season.
"We are not in a position to comment further until the FA board has had sufficient time to consider all of the recommendations and options."
Clubs had played between 13 and 16 games of the 22-match WSL before the season was postponed due to coronavirus, which caused the suspension of top level football across the world.
Some leagues, such as the men's Bundesliga in Germany, have since returned to action, while other divisions - including the English men's Premier League - are planning to resume in the coming weeks. The women's Bundesliga is scheduled to resume this Friday (May 29).
However some high profile European top divisions - including the men's Eredivisie in the Netherlands, Ligue 1 in France, the Belgian Jupiler League and the Scottish Premiership - have abandoned their seasons either for economic reasons or due to government rulings banning mass gatherings for the foreseeable future.
Abandoned leagues have been resolved in various ways - in France, Belgium and Scotland, championships and relegations have been honoured, however in the Netherlands the season was declared null and void with no winners.
Manchester United Women's manager Casey Stoney said the decision to cancel the season was disappointing, but the correct call.
Stoney, whose side were fourth in the 12-team table when the season was abandoned, said: “It’s obviously disappointing not to be able complete the season, but it is the right decision for the safety of everyone involved.
"Our focus now moves to our development for next season, which we have been continuously planning for throughout the year, and we can’t wait to be back on the pitch again when it is safe to do so.
"I’m so proud of how hard my players and staff have worked throughout the season and how they have adapted to the last 10 weeks of training away from the club, their determination and drive has been incredible to witness.
"We’ve enjoyed our first season in this league, exceeding expectations whilst staying true to our values, but we still have big ambitions for how we want to move forward as a club.
"I’d also like to thank the fans for their incredible support this season and for sticking by us through these uncertain times. We can’t wait to see you again, whenever that may be, but for now, stay safe and continue looking out for each other.”