Women's football in England was celebrated last week as the FA announced that it would be granting central contracts to 17 international players, as part of its four-year Women and Girls Football Strategy, which was launched in autumn 2008.
The players who have been awarded with the contracts will be paid from a central pot of £320,000 on a contract that will be renewed on an annual basis. Over 25 international players applied for a central contract, and were asked by The FA to meet specific criteria in order to be successful, such as working no more than 24 hours a week,
The FA Chairman, Lord Triesman, said of the announcement, "This is a vital step. 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. It is right for our sport."
Central contracts will also give the FA, and England Women's Head Coach Hope Powell, greater control over players availability for matches, tournaments and training camps, something which is seen as a fundamental part in achieving the key milestone of England Women's Senior team competing at highest level.
Hope Powell said, "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 PFA on these contracts over a long period of time to ensure they are right for the players.
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.
"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."
The news of central contracts comes off the back of The FA's decision to reluctantly defer the launch of the Women's Summer Super League until 2011 as part of an ongoing review in the current global financial downturn.
"We are delighted that the contracts were not affected by the current climate", Powell added, "They are in place for the next four years and hopefully, for many years to come."
The 17 players that have currently been awarded FA central contracts are: 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)