SUNDERLAND Women hope to battle to a third consecutive Premier League title in the next month – but the hard work will continue off the field even after the season ends!
The Lady Black Cats were yesterday accepted into the second division of the FA Women’s Super League from next season.
This means “summer” football, with the season played from March to October – and a more professional approach as the women’s game continues to go from strength to strength.
The FA WSL is just into its third season, with a new second division added next year.
Sunderland, as the most successful side outside the elite eight-team division, had hoped to make it into the top flight as all 18 places were put up for grabs.
As it was, only Manchester City got the nod to jump a division from mid-table in the Premier League, straight into the FA WSL1.
Doncaster Belles, just one game into the new league season at the top level, received the bad news that – regardless of how they play this season – they will drop a division next term.
One big surprise was the inclusion in FA WSL2 of Durham Women; effectively a new venture, growing out of South Durham and Cestria Girls, They got the nod, while other teams already in the Premier League – including this season’s potential double winners Leeds United – have missed out, and will drop a level.
Durham Women will play their games at New Ferens Park; not a great distance away from Sunderland Women’s Eppleton CW home.
For both clubs, the work continues to build solid infrastructures and strong business links.
“We are obviously delighted to get in,” said Sunderland chairman Maurice Alderson. “And there is a touch of relief after we fell short in the last bidding process.
“We’ve been well backed by Sunderland AFC and there were hopes that we could get into the top division but it wasn’t to be. Having said that, in joining FA WSL2 I’m sure we can prove competitive and establish ourselves – and hopefully push onwards and upwards.
“We are hoping to attract more fans to the women’s game and hopefully build a strong support. We have worked very hard over the years to keep the name of Sunderland to the forefornt of the game and the manager Mick Mulhern has done a tremendous job with the team.
“With the season going through the summer for us from next year, hopefully a lot of SAFC fans will come along and have a look - and enjoy it, and keep coming back.
“Now we have been accepted (into the FA WSL), there will certainly be a lot of meetings to decide how we progress from here, and a lot of work to put those plans into practice.”
The clubs selected for FA WSL1 are: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Chelsea, Everton, Notts County, Liverpool, Manchester City.
Clubs selected for FA WSL2 are: Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham Women, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Oxford United Women, Reading Women, Sunderland Women, Watford Ladies, Yeovil Town.