After three months without any domestic football in Wales, the Orchard Welsh Premier Women’s League returned on Sunday.
In the only game of the weekend, Aberystwyth hosted Briton Ferry in the first match in 97 days.
Caroline Cooper’s instinctive free-kick cancelled out Lucy Powell’s first half penalty as the teams battled out a 1-1 draw.
How did we get here
In mid-December, the league was suspended when Wales’ Alert Level reached tier four, meaning that the country would enter a lockdown.
Whilst the top two tiers in England continued, players in Wales’ top division had to sit at home.
Players waited for the announcement that they too could return to what they love doing, playing football.
That announcement came February 23 when the National Sport Group granted the WPWL ‘Elite sporting status’.
Most teams returned to training that evening and began planning towards the resumption of the season.
How did clubs cope with the lockdown
Aberystwyth Town encouraged their players to take part in the ‘North Pole Challenge’ to raise much needed funds.
By walking, running and cycling the total distance from Aberystwyth to the North Pole and back, the club raised £2,740.
They put that money towards new kit and equipment for the first team as well as making a charitable donation.
Current champions Swansea’s squad managed to stay connected over lockdown and kept fit via the internet.
Brooke Llewellyn told the club’s official website: “We had team sessions over Zoom, even though we weren’t together in person, we were together through a screen.
“Even just being able to see each other and hear each other’s voices, we were motivated in that way and it just made us more excited to come back to training; that was something we have been looking forward to for the past few months.”
What to expect this season
Swansea are the favourites to retain their title this year but face tough competition from Cardiff Met University.
The Swans got the better of the students earlier in the season, winning 1-0 at Llandarcy Park.
Swansea also made history this season when they took part in the first-ever women’s domestic match in Wales to be broadcast live.
Live on the Welsh Language channel S4C, they beat their bitter rivals Cardiff City 3-0.
Aberystwyth’s draw on Sunday meant they picked up their first point of the season, but remain botto mf the table.
However, with 11 games remaining in the season, they can soon change their fortunes.
A bright future for domestic football in Wales
This will be the league’s final season in its current format.
From next year the number of teams will be cut from nine to eight as the FAW plan to revamp the women’s game in Wales.
Eight tier one spaces are available with 15 clubs applying. Tier two has 16 spaces, split into a North and South division for which 22 teams have applied.
“It’s exciting to see so many clubs engage with this process and share our vision for the domestic game,” said Lowri Roberts, Head of Women’s and Girls’ Football.
“It’s incredibly important for the growth of the game that this process is competitive in order to release the potential of our ambitious clubs to not only improve themselves on and off the pitch, but to also assist in driving forward the development of the female provision across Wales.”