Sunderland confirm major statement of intent for their Ladies team as they bid for Championship promotion
Mel Reay's side have seen their last two league campaigns curtailed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the first occasion when they were well on course to win the FA WNL North.
The FA earlier this month confirmed that they would promote two clubs to the Championship from the FA WNL, and Sunderland are hoping to be one of the teams who benefit.
The club said they have prepared a 'detailed, innovative and evidence-based application.
Announcing the move, Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman said: "Our strategy is to develop a women's programme that fully integrates with our wider football operation and model.
"It will therefore receive the appropriate support from all of our respective performance domains to ensure that it follows the same philosophy and processes as the other teams operating at the Academy of Light.
"Sunderland Ladies are an important part of the club's long-term vision and this application clearly states our intent to develop and support women's football within our community."
Steve Davison, who was appointed as the club's Chief Operating Officer in the aftermath of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus' takeover, said it was a sign of the club's commitment to 'representing all the people within our wonderfully diverse community'.
"I am delighted that we have the opportunity to aplply to join the Women's Championship, as it is critically important that, as a collective club, we represent all of the people within our wonderfully diverse community," he said.
"Sunderland Ladies are an integral part of fulfilling that pledge and I know how important this is to our region, so I'm immensely grateful for the support we have received in preparing the submission."
Lesley Spuhler, the Foundation of Light's Chief Executive Officer, said: "The Foundation of Light's player pathway has always been inclusive and I'm delighted to support the bid for FA Women's Championship football.
"Our Regional Talent Centre is recognised as one of the best in the country, based on a number of factors including facilities, quality of coaching, education and coach and player development.
"It has helped established talents such as England stars Steph Houghton and Jill Scott, as well as current Sunderland Ladies captain Keira Ramshaw, to name a few.
"We're so proud to see them at the forefront of women's football today and long may that continue."
A decision will now be made by the Women's Football Board, who are expected to confirm their choice at the end of May/beginning of June.
In a statement released last month, they confirmed that that decision would be made based on a set of on and off-pitch criteria, weighted 75 per cent on-field and 25 per cent off-field.
"The on-field criteria will consider aspects such as points per game, cup performances and goal difference, across the last two seasons. The off-field section will mark clubs on areas such as club structure, workforce and facilities.
"Clubs that meet these requirements will be ranked against those other clubs that have applied from within the same division and which have also fulfilled the relevant requirements. The club with the highest number of marks within each division will be offered upward movement."