'Absolutely devastated' - reaction after Sunderland Ladies lose top flight status

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A former Sunderland Ladies chief says he is “absolutely devastated” after the club was denied a place in the top two tiers of the women’s game next season.

Sunderland AFC Ladies have not been successful in their application for a license to play in either the FA Women’s Super League [Tier 1] or FA Women’s Championship [Tier 2].

The club faces an uncertain future with officials taking time to “fully consider” available options with it yet to be confirmed which division they would go into.

Before Sunderland AFC took over the running of Sunderland Ladies back in 2013, Sunderland Women was run by a hard-working and dedicated committee led by then chairman Maurice Alderson.

The club, rebranded as Sunderland Ladies in the WSL1, has gone on to produce several members of the current England squad including Jill Scott, Beth Mead, skipper Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Jordan Nobbs.

Alderson told the Echo: “I feel absolutely devastated to see SAFC Ladies forced to drop out of the top tiers of WSL.

“I - and my colleagues - worked damned hard to achieve this level and all those years ago handed over to SAFC to ensure a secure future and a pathway for girls entering the game.

“Throughout its entire history the club has been the highest ranking NE Women’s team and has produced seven of the current England squad, including the England captain. I am disappointed in the FA.

“Their original blueprint was all about equality and it would be governed by what happens on the football pitch but in my opinion this is all about money.”

Former Sunderland Ladies striker Beth Mead, who joined Arsenal in January 2017, tweeted: “Heartbroken is an understatement. Absolutely devastated for @SAFCLadies all the girls, staff and fans.

“Such an amazing club that played a huge part in my career and the women’s game. Produced some of the best English talent. Be proud of what you’ve achieved.”

Rachel Furness, who now plays for Reading, tweeted: “I really hope this isn’t the end to a club where I personally spent over 10 years of my career - everyone involved with the women’s set up over those years worked tirelessly to get the club to where is it now.”