Former England boss Hope Powell said she was “overjoyed” yesterday after her Brighton side learned they will join the Women’s Super League (WSL) top-flight next year.
The Football Association announced that the nine WSL sides who applied for licences to stay at the elite level when it becomes a full-time league would each retain their status from the 2018-19 season, with Brighton joining them.
Brighton, who are currently in WSL2, will play at Crawley Town’s home stadium from next term.
Powell said: “I am overjoyed with the announcement, as this will allow the club to realise its aim of playing at the very highest level.
“I have previously said that achieving tier-one status is the next logical step for us in our long-term plan, and I would like to thank everyone inside and outside of the club for their support.”
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber added: “This is absolutely fantastic news, and is testament to the hard work from everyone at the club in ensuring we had the best-possible application to present to the FA.”
The FA said its women’s football board reached its decisions after “a detailed assessment of each application by a panel of experts,” with some of the licences granted on a conditional basis.
Under the league’s overhaul plan, clubs in the top-flight must guarantee a minimum of 16 hours of training per week for players, plus matches, increasing to 20 hours by the 2021-22 season. They must also have academies.
The future of Sunderland, the one WSL club that did not apply in the first round, remains undetermined. The Lady Black Cats recently stated they would target a “collaborative” application for a tier-one place when a second chance to apply comes in March.
A minimum of two more tier-one places are up for grabs, with clubs from outside the current WSL ranks also now entitled to apply.
West Ham have been strongly linked with a move to fast-track their team into the top division.
Yeovil have kept their place alongside the likes of powerhouses Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea, despite the Somerset club recently admitting the demands on them to fulfil full-time and professional criteria would be a major challenge.
Yeovil issued a statement that said the club had to rush through plans in the space of two months “that were expected to take two to three years.”
They added: “The club are delighted to have achieved this status but the hard work continues now as the club put this plan into action.”