Sunderland Ladies handed promotion boost as they eye return to the elite of women’s football
Sunderland Ladies have been handed a boost to their hopes of returning to the FA Women’s Championship - as the Football Association confirm their plans for the 2019/20 season.
The Lady Black Cats were relegated from the top tier at the end of the 2017/18 after their bid for a new licence was turned down.
That saw them relegated to the third tier of women’s football - the FA Women’s National League - where they were forced to undergo a major rebuilding operation on and off the field.
But they impressed in their maiden season in the division, only missing out on promotion to all-conquering Blackburn Rovers.
Sunderland will be favourites to win the National League Northern Division, and clinch promotion to the Championship, when the new season kicks-off in August - and they have been handed an early boost with the FA confirming that two teams will be promoted from the third tier next season.
Under previous rules, the winners of the Northern and Southern divisions would have to battle it out in a play-off to secure the one promotion spot to the second tier.
But, as they did last year, the FA will be offering the winners of both regional leagues promotion - providing they can meet the relevant league criteria.
This is to address the odd number of teams currently in the Championship following the withdrawal of Yeovil Town Ladies last month.
Should they win their league, Sunderland will still have to satisfy off-field criteria in regards to staffing, finance and training hours.
Nonetheless, the news will provide a boost to the Lady Black Cats as they look to climb back up the leagues.
In a statement confirming arrangements, the FA said: “With the withdrawal of Yeovil Town Ladies FC from Tier 2 or the Women’s Pyramid of Football (FA Women’s Championship), The FA Women’s Football Board have agreed that at the conclusion of the 2019/20 Season, two teams will be promoted from Tier 3 (Champions of the FA Women’s National League Northern and Southern Divisions respectively, subject to meeting licence criteria for Tier 2).”
Mel Copeland is set to once again lead the side next season, with the Echo understanding that deals are already in place for some new additions ahead of the 2019/20 season.