Exclusive: FA invite Sunderland Ladies to reapply to the Women's Championship ahead of potential title tilt

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Sunderland AFC Ladies | JPIMedia Resell
Sunderland Ladies have been asked to start compiling an application to return to the elite of women’s football.

The Echo understands that the Football Association have asked the Lady Black Cats to begin the early stages of putting together a bid for promotion to the FA Women’s Championship - the second tier of the women’s game.

Sunderland were demoted two divisions in 2018 after a failed bid to remain in the FA’s elite structure, which underwent a significant rebranding.

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But this latest move - while fairly routine in the short-term - shows that the governing body are open to Sunderland returning to the Championship, which they won in 2014.

It is understood that academy manager Paul Reid is playing an active role in the bid, which won’t be heard until 2020.

There are some important caveats, however, which could affect Sunderland’s chances of being promoted.

The first is on-field success - the Lady Black Cats will have to finish top of the FA Women’s National League Northern Division. That looks a real possibility, though, with Mel Copeland’s side maintaining their fine start to the season with a 2-0 win at Stoke City on Sunday thanks to Neve Herron’s stunning brace.

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Other clubs in contention to win the league are also likely to have been asked to begin compiling bids.

And the second is compiling a suitable application. The club will need to demonstrate they have the administrative structure and financial capacity to compete in the Championship - with a six-figure sum needed to run a second tier side.