Manchester United players celebrates after the final whistle of the FA Women's Championship soccer match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA via AP

LONDON  The Premier League has moved a step closer to taking control of the Women's Super League (WSL) from the English FA after clubs agreed to conduct a feasibility study to explore the idea.

The Premier League and FA have been in talks over the potential move for the past six months and, although no timeframe has been proposed, clubs unanimously agreed to support the study at a shareholders meeting last month.

The FA said it supported the idea of the Premier League eventually running the 12-team WSL, which was won by Arsenal who finished ahead of Manchester City and Chelsea last season.

"The FA can confirm that it is supporting the Premier League in a project to explore the long term feasibility of the Premier League running the Women's Super League (WSL)," an FA spokesperson told Reuters via email.

"This is a purely exploratory project and based on a long term timescale. The FA is proud that it set up the first European women's professional league... as part of its commitment to growing the women's game.

"However, the FA has always been clear that it is open to an external body running the WSL in the long term, as the FA's remit is to support the game from grassroots to elite teams."

The Premier League confirmed that the project was "purely exploratory" at this time.

"We are working with the FA to explore the long-term feasibility of the Premier League running elite women's league football in this country," a Premier League spokesman told Reuters in an email.

Thirteen Premier League clubs have teams in the WSL and second-tier Women's Championship and the BBC reported that some of them were keen to capitalise on the England Lionesses reaching the semi-finals of the women's World Cup.

Banking group Barclays will become the WSL's first title sponsor next season in a deal worth more than 10 million pounds ($12.58 million), with the league to be renamed the Barclays FA Women's Super League.

Kelly Simmons, the FA director of women's football, said in March that the sponsorship deal would make the women's top flight less dependent on the men's teams for financial support.

Reuters