Why Sunderland Ladies' appalling treatment by the FA is still a festering wound
Another glorious failure has befallen England’s national team. This time it was in the Women’s World Cup where they finished fourth.
But they are continually improving and among the favourites for the 2021 Euros. It was a great World Cup.However, while cheering on the Lionesses as much as anyone, success in the tournament has opened up old wounds on Wearside.What’s everyone moaning about? What exactly was Sunderland’s contribution to the World Cup, which has given the women’s game a profile previously undreamt of?All Sunderland AFC Ladies managed was to produce a third of England’s squad; namely Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Demi Stokes, Carly Telford, Beth Mead, Lucy Staniforth and Lucy Bronze, described by her manager Phil Neville as “the best player in the world”.What have the Romans ever done for us?The still festering wound is due to the demotion of Sunderland from the first to the third tier of the game in 2018, for no good reason.The FA’s head of women’s football is Sue Campbell; a baroness who has rarely been confused with a ray of sunshine. Her choice of words then was not palliative.Party girl Sue, ennobled in 2008 for services to paperwork, reckoned: “Sunderland haven’t had the support they’ve needed from the men’s club for some time. But we’re not going to abandon the North East. We’re going to a put a talent academy for 16 to 20 year-olds at Northumbria University and build again from the bottom up.”Let them eat cakes. To précis, we’ve pretty much obliterated your football club. But don’t worry; we’re going to slip a few quid to students who play in an entirely different city which has no women’s club to speak of.With touching concern, she added: “In a few years we’ll have a league that’s the envy of the world. But Sunderland are a casualty. It’s tough on them.”Will the league improve? Removing teams from the top flight to make way for inferior replacements was an interesting first move to achieve this.
West Ham Women were conversely moved up two divisions, recognising their twin achievements of being given more cash (the real reason for the whole farce) and a flair for filling in forms.The Hammeresses finished seventh: exactly where Sunderland had finished the season before.Also allowed to remain in the Women’s Super League were Yeovil, a footballing powerhouse who repaid the faith shown in them by finishing bottom on minus three points.The FA isn’t entirely to blame for Sunderland Ladies’ tumble. Previous regimes at SAFC didn’t help. But the women’s game perpetually and justifiably demands to be taken seriously.
Yet what it did to Sunderland Ladies is unthinkable in the men’s game. If it did happen there would be an extremely expensive court case.Sunderland’s contribution to the leap forward by women’s football is massive. The FA will soon issue public recognition for the club’s role in an excellent 2019 World Cup. Only kidding. It would be nice though.