The Football Association have announced that 17 players in the England women's squad are now under central contracts.
The FA board have ratified a four-year deal that will see players paid from a pot worth £1.28million in total, with the hope of keeping the squad fresh and focused for international duty. Players needed to ensure availability "at all times during the year", which will explain why Boston Breakers forward Kelly Smith is not among those under contract.
"This is a vital step," said FA chairman Lord Triesman. "It ensures that our head coach will have outstanding players available to her in the future, footballers who are great role models in women's football."
Using central contracts is the system used for England's cricketers, with the aim of controlling when players can rest or play for their counties. Head coach Hope Powell added: "We are delighted to be able to finally announce that 17 players have so far accepted central contracts.
"We have worked very hard with the FA board and the Professional Footballers' Association on these contracts over a long period of time to ensure they are right for the players. This is a great opportunity for those players who have been successful.
"These contracts will help them to focus on training and playing and, just as importantly, on getting the adequate rest time in between without having the pressures of working a 35-hour week. We hope this will allow our girls time to concentrate on helping England qualify for major tournaments on a consistent basis and competing at the very top level against the best teams in the world."
FA centrally contracted players: Rachel Brown (Everton), Siobhan Chamberlain (Chelsea), Carly Telford (Leeds Carnegie), Casey Stoney (Chelsea), Faye White (Arsenal), Rachel Unitt (Everton), Stephanie Houghton (Leeds Carnegie), Emily Westwood (Everton), Katie Chapman (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Everton), Laura Bassett (Arsenal), Rachel Williams (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Rachel Yankey (Arsenal), Sue Smith (Leeds Carnegie), Jody Handley (Everton), Lindsay Johnson (Everton), Corrine Yorston (Bristol Academy)