Doncaster Rovers Belles, one of the founding members of the national women's league, will be relegated from the top tier of the Women's Super League after the Football Association dismissed an appeal against the decision.
Formed in 1969, the Belles have been key members of the top flight for 22 years yet they will be replaced next season by Manchester City Ladies.
The FA dismissed Doncaster's appeal – that the panel who made the initial decision was not fully independent – because the club is "unable to satisfactorily meet minimum facility requirements, alongside further concerns on their commercial and marketing strategies".
The Belles have received widespread support in the face of their plight, with a petition against the FA's decision signed by 9,000 people. They are considering taking legal action.
Doncaster's vice-chairman, Alan Smart, said: "It's an unfortunate period in this proud club's history, a very emotional time for all. Football shouldn't be about administrative decisions; no one has a divine right to play at the highest level forever but the beautiful game should be about the meritocratic winning or losing of promotion or relegation after a season full of highs and lows.
"The national and international support for the club has been very, very humbling. There have been banners, appeals, protests and MPs lobbying; Dermot O'Leary, Louis Tomlinson, Danny Baker, Ian Wright, Jeff Stelling and Robbie Savage have all had a view on the situation as it unfolded."
When the FA made their initial decision to relegate Doncaster in May the team had played just one game of the current season and the Belles argued that the FA panel was tainted by bias.
But the governing body dismissed the claims. They said in statement: "The [appeal] panel found there were no evidence to suggest the FA WSL Selection Panel was not independent.
"We look forward to continue working with Doncaster Rovers Belles FC and all our FA WSL clubs, who play a vital role alongside us in our commitment to continue to develop and build the women's game in England."
This is the second contentious decision the FA have made in recent weeks which has caused controversy ahead of the newly restructured Women's Super League. Supporters at Lincoln Ladies were furious when a decision was made to rebrand and relocate their club as Notts County Ladies, a move which angered Nottingham Forest Ladies in equal measure.