Rovers are to launch a new development for female footballers to help plug the gap between the development squad and first-team.

As a result, Rovers will not be entering a team into the FAWNL Reserve North Division 1 for the forthcoming 2020/21 campaign.

The club hope the player pathway programme will enhance the quantity and quality of players challenging to break into the Ladies first team going forward.

The move follows Rovers’ promotion to the Women’s Championship last year, with Gemma Donnelly’s side confirming their status as a second-tier team for next season, despite the 2019/20 campaign having been curtailed.

Rovers finally secured their second-tier status in 2019, making it third time lucky, having won the Northern Premier Division titles in 2017 and 2018, only to miss out on promotion following defeat in the play-off final, and seeing their subsequent applications rejected.

The development squad, prior to their season being halted, were second in their Reserve league, with three games in hand on their leaders.

From next season, reserve players will be retained and continue their training and development at the club, but their experience of first-team football will come out on loan.

Explaining the decision, Rovers Ladies boss Gemma Donnelly said: “While we have enjoyed many seasons of success in the FAWNL (Reserves), this has also likely been of detriment to the players’ development.

“With the first team now competing in the FA Women’ Championship, the gulf in standards between the development team and first team has widened and it is apparent we need to adopt a new strategy.

“For the forthcoming season, we will be delivering a bespoke development player pathway, whereby some existing players and some new talent will be recruited to train alongside the first team and be offered loan agreements to play competitive football at alternative clubs, in a league we feel will be more suitable and more beneficial.

“We will monitor each player and measure their outcomes against our own key performance indicators, as well as working closely with them in our first team training environment.

“This is something new and exciting that we wish to try and will replace the rigid old style of the development team.”

Anyone wishing to join the new development scheme should contact Gemma Donnelly at for more information.

The news comes as Rovers have had their second-tier status confirmed for next season.

As the 2019/20 results were expunged between tiers three and seven of the women’s pyramid, the FA agreed their would be no relegation or promotion between the FA Women’s Championship and the third tier this season.

An FA statement read: "Our board has reached a majority decision to decide the 2019/20 Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship on a basic point-per-game (PPG) basis, with promotion and relegation determined on sporting merit.

"As a result, we can confirm the decision to award the 2019/20 Barclays FA Women’s Super League title to Chelsea Women, and to award the 2019/20 FA Women’s Championship title to Aston Villa Women.
"In addition, Chelsea and Manchester City Women will be nominated as the two English clubs to qualify for the 2020/21 UEFA Women’s Champions League competition, having finished in the top two places of the 2019-20 Barclays FA Women’s Super League season.

"The final team positions across both leagues also confirmed that Aston Villa Women would be promoted to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League for the 2020-21 season, and that Liverpool FC Women would be relegated to the FA Women’s Championship for the 2020/21 season.

"All decisions were made and finalised by our Board – and were based on the most appropriate sporting outcome for the 2019/20 season.

"We will now work with the clubs and our stakeholders across football to plan for next season and we aim to announce the target start dates for the 2020/21 campaign soon."