Sunderland Ladies to return to part-time status, club announce

Beth Mead in action for Sunderland Ladies in their WSL1 match with champs Man City. Picture by FRANK REID
Beth Mead in action for Sunderland Ladies in their WSL1 match with champs Man City. Picture by FRANK REID
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Sunderland Ladies are to now operate purely on a part-time basis, the club has announced.

The Lady Black Cats have played the last two seasons in the Women's Super League with a squad of full-time professional combined with part-time players.

The news will come as a huge blow to players, staff and fans, who were looking forward to the WSL Spring League ahead of a return to a winter programme in September following the elite women's game's run as a summer sport.

But the professionals, who include star striker Beth Mead, Brooke Chaplen, Tori Williams, Hayley Sharp, Rachael Laws, Rachel Furness and Steph Roche, are now likely to leave for pastures new.

The club tonight released a statement on the SAFC Ladies website.

It read: 'After three years of operating a structure consisting of both full and part-time players, Sunderland AFC Ladies is to revert to its previously successful part-time model.

'Over recent months, and after significant reviewing and analysis, it has become apparent that having a mix of full-time and part-time players was not working as effectively as the club, and indeed the players, had envisaged.

'With a number of the current squad committed to careers or study, full-time football careers were not an option for them and Sunderland AFC Ladies is keen to retain the services of these long-standing players.

'A part-time model for players therefore ensures that students and those with careers such as teaching, can continue to be committed members of the first team squad, without having to make a choice between their career and football.

'It will also allow the coaching staff to have more structured training schedules and improved match preparation for the squad as a whole.

'Sunderland AFC’s chief executive Martin Bain said: “We are reviewing the operation of every aspect of the football club as we aim to improve, both on and off the field. Our support for women’s football remains and we believe that at the present time this structure is a more effective way forward for all of us”.'

Sunderland finished fourth in the 2015 WSL1 season, having been title challengers until the last weeks of the programme, though Carlton Fairweather's side could only finish seventh this season.