The Fufa Women Super League (FWSL) took two months break after just nine games. The second round will include another nine games before crowning the champions, who barring a collapse of unprecedented margins will be Kampala Queens. This will be the fourth time in the history of our women’s top flight league that the title has exchanged hands. Since Kawempe Muslim’s dominance that stretched from the 2015 season to the 2017/18 one, the league has been won by four different clubs; Uganda Christian University Lady Cardinals (2018/19), Lady Doves (2021) and She Corporate (2022). That shows how competitive the previous seasons have been. However, we cannot say for sure that on the back of 18 matches, our players are getting enough games to compete with the rest of the continent in the Champions League and international engagements. That said, the issue of ‘under-loading’ players in women’s football is already a widespread debate all over the world and Uganda can pioneer changes.
When the Fufa Women Cup returns, some of the topflight teams will definitely add between one to five matches on their calendars while there have been promotions for the women’s Fufa Drum to increase matches. The school-based sides and players are at an advantage as they get more competitive games through the various district, national and regional competitions. Some players also take part in beach soccer but that is entirely different. Fufa can, however, increase matches within the league and they have indeed grappled with the issue of the league format over and over again. The first two seasons were played on home and away basis before the top four tussled out in the playoffs for the title. Then we had the division of the topflight teams into Victoria and Elizabeth Groups until the 2018/19 season. Here the top two from each group would then compete in the playoffs for the trophy. The botched 2019/20 season was supposed to have 10 clubs playing three rounds such that there is greater competition to prepare teams for the Champions League. The first two on home and away basis then the aggregate winner of each encounter hosting the third round. The 2021 season was understandably played in a shortened group stage format before knockouts to allow the sport progress from the Covid-19 effects. Then we started the current format of 10 teams playing each other home and away. That is the popular league format all over the world but we just do not have enough teams involved. The proposal The argument to increase teams does not arise as there are not enough quality teams beyond the top seven from last season.
She Maroons, Tooro Queens, Rines SS, Asubo-Gafford and Makerere University – which have previously proved too good for the second tier – have struggled to convince that they are not just making up the numbers in the first division. Here is our proposal that would increase games without compromising the quality or over stretching the budgets for clubs and Fufa, who say they spend Shs18m to broadcast a match. The FWSL should stay with 10 sides. But after the existing 18-game format (which should be played over a shorter timeframe than the current September to May timetable with two months break in between), the league would split (akin to the Scottish and Danish men’s leagues in Europe) into a top half and a bottom half – which would make the first 18 games more rewarding rather than the winner takes all league that we have now. Then, the five top-half sides would play one another, home and away, over an additional eight matches, as would the five bottom-half sides. That would create a 26-game league season for each team with more matches between sides of relatively equal ability. The points from the first round can be carried into the split season to determine champions and those relegated. The Title pretenders like Olila High School and Uganda Christian University (UCU) Lady Cardinals from last season would have the satisfaction of being grouped together with the true title contenders like Uganda Martyrs High School (UMHS) Lubaga, Kampala Queens and She Corporate. Mid-table sides like Lady Doves and Kawempe would aim to push into the next class in upcoming seasons while the relegation battlers like Rines, Tooro and She Maroons would have more realistic chances to get results and improve gradually rather than hoping for upsets against the top sides that we have hardly seen in the FWSL. The same can be done with the second tier FWEL. As teams of the similar quality play each more, they will get better gradually and their new found ambitions will then push them to making a case for increased numbers in the FWSL and FWEL.