FA announce major decision on the fate of Sunderland Ladies' league campaign
Sunderland Ladies have had their league campaign curtailed for a second consecutive season.
The FA announced their attention on Tuesday afternoon to bring an end to all league campaigns in tiers three to six, saying it is not deemed 'viable' to continue the season into May.
Sunderland are currently scheduled to return to action on April 4th, when they will begin their FA Cup campaign against Sheffield.
The winners of that tie will face Burnley or Fylde away a week later, with the winner of that fixture landing a clash with Manchester United on April 18th.
Their competitive campaign will now end whenever their cup run concludes, although the leagues affected by the curtailment will be 'encouraged' to set up fixtures in line with the government's roadmap to resume grassroots sports.
The announcement looks to be a major blow to the club's hopes of returning to the Championship next season.
Sunderland currently sit fifth in the National League North table, with 15 points from their nine games. Huddersfield Town are the runaway leaders at this stage, with 25 points from their ten games to date.
The FA had initially planned to promote the winners of both the National League North and National League South at the end of this season, subject to a successful licencing process.
They had also planned to relegate one team from the Championship.
A licencing process could be opened up should a space become available, but as it stands the Black Cats will have to fight again for promotion next season.
The FA statement reads: "The 2020/21 Season for tiers 3-6 of the Women’s Football Pyramid will be curtailed with immediate effect and declared incomplete, with no further league fixtures taking place this season. There will also be no promotion and relegation between these tiers for the 2020/21 season, including no promotion from tier 3 into tier 2 and no relegation from tier 6 into tier 7.
"The Women’s Football Board, taking into account the views of Clubs and Leagues, decided that extending the 2020/21 league season beyond the end of May 2021 would not be a viable option due to the operational issues faced by many Clubs and Leagues.
"Clubs and Leagues will however be encouraged to provide playing opportunities over the coming months by organising alternative fixtures in some format, where they are able and feel comfortable to do so following the return of grassroots football from 29 March and in line with the appropriate guidelines."
It is another blow for Melanie Reay's side, who were eleven points clear at the top of the division when the previous campaign was curtailed.
At the time, they still had a game in hand to play on second-placed Derby County.
The club had begun the licencing process to return to secure their promotion to the Championship were they to go and win the league, and the FA were understood to be impressed with their initial application.
The Women's Football Board will present their proposal to the FA board for ratification, with consideration of further club feedback.