The Premier League has moved a step closer to taking over the Women’s Super League from the Football Association.
Clubs unanimously agreed to conduct a feasibility study into the idea at a shareholders’ meeting last month.
It follows talks between the Premier League and FA over the past six months, and no timeframe has yet been proposed.
The FA is understood to be open to the idea, and see the women’s England teams and grassroots participation as their long-term priorities.
Neither they or the Premier League would comment.
Any takeover could still be several seasons away.
The FA set up the WSL in 2011, and oversaw its development to become Europe’s only full-time professional competition with 12 teams for 2019-20.
Premier League-affiliated clubs make up 13 of the 22 sides in the women’s top two divisions and some believe the WSL could be run more professionally.
The league has recently been boosted by the promotion of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur to the top division, and a £10m sponsorship deal with Barclays.
However, attendances have dropped below an average of 1000, and some Premier League clubs now feel there is significant scope for growth in sponsorship and broadcasting deals, especially after England’s journey to the World Cup semi-final was watched by record television audiences.
Chelsea women’s boss Emma Hayes has previously called for the Premier League to be involved in the running of women’s football.
She has been critical of the way the FA has structured the league season, where there have often been big gaps between fixtures, leading to a handicap ahead of Champions League games.
Most teams still run at a loss, with the three biggest – Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal – reliant on significant support from their men’s teams.
Last year, the FA revealed they are to increase their investment in women’s and girls’ football by a further £50m over six years. They are halfway through their four-year ‘Gameplan For Growth’ strategy, aiming to boost participation and create a high-performance system for England teams.
Next year’s Tokyo Olympics – where TeamGB will have a women’s football side for the first time since London 2012 – and England hosting the 2021 European championships – are also seen as key opportunities for growing the game.
The Premier League does not oversee any senior women’s football competitions, but all current men’s Premier League clubs do run community football for girls, which saw 23,000 take part last season.
Former sports minister Tracey Crouch has called for the England team to be honoured for reaching the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup in France, matching the achievement of the England men’s team in Russia last summer.
“It is only right that the success of the women’s football team in the World Cup is honoured in the same way the men were last year,” said Crouch.
“The manager Phil Neville has achieved as much as Gareth Southgate did at a World Cup, as have many of the squad such as Golden Boot challenger Ellen White and midfield stalwart Jill Scott.