ECFA League and Cup Overview

FA Women’s Super League Update

The following text outlines important information for colleges and FE institutions partnering with The FA Women’s Super League (WSL) clubs and provides guidance to support the establishment and maintenance of meaningful partnerships.

As many of you will be aware, from the 2018-19 season the top tier of English women’s football has become full-time and, as part of their FA WSL Licence, all top tier clubs are required to run an academy under the new criteria.

A number of concerns regarding the sustainability of existing 16 to 19-year-old FE football programmes were raised in relation to the creation of an FA WSL Academy League. AoC Sport has been working closely with The Football Association over the past months to address these challenges, mitigate risks and maximise the opportunity this league presents.

We recognise this work is ongoing and ask any colleges to inform us of any challenges they are facing and/or examples of good practice in relations to the new changes; so we can work together to find solutions and ultimately protect the brilliant work colleges and the FE sector has done in developing Women’s Football.

If you have any concerns or good practice to share, please contact the AoC Sport Competitions team. 

Please find an update below which was sent to colleges linked to FA WSL clubs in September 2018 to support club partnerships and player development as well as our intention for ECFA Competitions to be the pathway feeding The FA WSL Academy League.


The FA has instructed clubs to devise service level agreements with FE partners in relation to their academy, player education and wider football development work.

AoC Sport advises colleges to consider the following points when drafting partnership agreements to ensure:

  • Student players are provided with a high-quality education and playing experience
  • Player development is maximised
  • The college can retain a competitive women’s 11v11 team
  • FA financial investment is used to maximum impact
  • The partnership brand is visible
  1. Colleges attached to FA WSL Clubs must enter a 16-19 team entered into the ECFA leagues, from which no more than three girls will be made available for The FA WSL Academy match day squad. This will help the college and club grow the number of female 16 to 19-year-old accessing quality, competitive game time on a regular basis and support player development and mitigate against the risk of existing teams folding.
  2. Colleges who currently don’t have a women’s programme but are the educational partner of an FA WSL Academy will be expected to start a women’s programme as part of the partnership.
  3. College and clubs are free to explore joint branding ventures for example, the badging of the Academy / ECFA team kits, in order to provide a clear statement of partnership work.


  1. The student can play for both the College and The FA WSL Academy teams, with their playing demands monitored to ensure no overplaying. Player development must be the number one priority and game minutes monitored.
  2. The college and club allow for players to transition between ECFA and FA WSL Academy leagues for player development / injury rehabilitation purposes in line with The FA WSL, FA WSL Academy and ECFA League rules.
  3. The FA WSL Academy fixtures can be played on a Sunday or Wednesday with The FA requesting there is intention to move the games to mid-week in 2019-20. We hope this will mitigate against existing 16-19 women’s teams from folding due to lack of players.


AoC Sport is delighted to confirm we are working with The FA to develop a Tier Two academy structure for 2019-20 as part of The ECFA Competitions Pathway; as The FA aims to create a consolidated pathway to deliver The FA Women’s Strategy 2017-20 ‘Game Plan for Growth’ which aims to double women’s football participation, double the fanbase and achieve consistent success on the world stage.

We will be sure to keep you informed of plans and progress as developments emerge.


National Premier League

AoC Sport leagues are open to member colleges, schools, academies and training providers that can demonstrate that they meet the entry criteria

The ECFA National Premier League represents the best of college football. Teams are separated geographically into groups of eight teams who play home and away fixtures to determine the league tables. The best 16 teams then progress to the league play-off competition, the final of which takes place at the ground of an English Football League club in May.

The philosophy of the ECFA Premier League is to provide the highest quality national league competition for 16 to 19-year-olds. To enhance the quality of the Premier League and focus on continuous improvement and quality standards, teams must complete an application process in which they demonstrate that they can meet the minimum operating standards and perform at an elite standard. Teams which fail to uphold these standards and who fail to meet a minimum of 80% compliance in-line with League Operating Standards will be at high risk of losing their Premier League status the following year.

Organisations are able to apply for Premier League status from February. The ECFA Committee selects entries and will inform all successful applicants at the start of the summer term.

For information on how to join contact AoC Sport’s competitions team.

Championships and Regional Leagues

Previously referred to as category 2 and 3 leagues, they are open to member colleges as well as schools, academies and training providers that meet our entry criteria.

The Championships and Regional league operate at a regional and sometimes sub-regional level. All teams must complete an online entry form by 30 April so that leagues can be created at the meetings of the Regional Operations Groups during the summer term. Late applications will be accepted where there are spaces in leagues.

The ECFA Championships are targeted at teams who have a focus on quality and performance and include teams aspiring to progress to the Premier League.

The ECFA Regional Leagues are targeted at participation teams, with teams in the women’s competitions having the option of using flexible formats.

For information on how to join contact AoC Sport’s competitions team

ECFA Cup Competitions

Cup competitions are open to member colleges as well as schools, academies and training providers. Teams can enter the cup competitions without entering a league. The following football cup competitions are offered:

  • Men’s ECFA Premier Cup (for colleges in the Premier League and Championships)
  • Men’s football knockout (for colleges who play in regional leagues or who do not enter leagues)
  • Men’s ECFA Knockout Trophy (for schools, academies and training providers)
  • Men’s ECFA Pan-Disability Cup (Disability Football Cup)
  • Women’s ECFA Premier Cup (for colleges in the Premier League and Championships)
  • Women’s ECFA Knockout Cup (for teams in regional leagues)

ECFA Cup Finals take place during the first week of May at a selected professional football club – providing a fantastic occasion which celebrates the quality of football played within the sector

For information on how to enter contact AoC Sport’s competitions team.

If you are interested in sponsoring one of our cup finals, please contact our National Football Development Manager, Lauren O’Sullivan.