Sunderland Ladies could be handed a major boost as FA makes significant promotion announcement
Sunderland Ladies will be offered the opportunity to apply for promotion to the Women's Championship for the 2021/22 season, the FA have this afternoon confirmed.
Mel Reay's side saw their campaign curtailed for the second successive year last month, with the FA initial saying that there would be no promotion to the second tier.
However, they have today announced their intention to promote two teams ahead of the new campaign.
Clubs from the FA WNL Northern Premier (Sunderland's current division) and the FAW WNL Southern Premier are elgible to apply.
Sunderland have not yet confirmed whether they will apply, but Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman told a supporters' collective meeting in March that the club wanted to secure a return to the Championship 'as soon as possible'.
Speakman added that he had been in discussions with Reay over a three to five year strategy for growing the club, and also said a strategy was being developed to support the women's programme and that 'the provision and use of data and analytics will also be available to the Sunderland Ladies structure so there is a consistency of approach throughout the club.'
It's also understood that Sunderland did begin the application process for promotion during the 2019/20 campaign, when Reay's side were dominant at the top fo the table.
It is considered likely that they will therefore explore an application this time around.
Competition for the two places is likely to be significant, with Derby County understood to be preparing a strong application.
The FA have also confirmed that their final decision will be judged on criteria weighted 75% on-pitch, and 25% off-pitch.
The on-pitch criteria will include points-per-game, cup performance and goal difference across the two curtailed campaigns.
Sunderland will score very strongly on this front, given that they have a league PPG over that time of 2.39, comfortably the best in the division.
They also reached the final of the FA WNL Cup last season, and suffered a narrow defeat in the FA Cup to WSL side Birmingham City.
The off-field section will mark clubs on areas such as club structure, workforce and facilities.
Clubs will then be scored accordingly and provided the highest-scoring clubs meet the licencing criteria, they will then be offered the chance to move up to the Championship.
Clubs have until May 4th to submit an application, with a final decision by the Women's Football Board expected either at the end of that month, or early in June.
Speaking earlier this month, Reay told The Echo that her early conversations with Speakman had left her confident that the club was moving in the right direction.
"There's going to be a vision in place and a strategy to achieve it, which is all we want and all we need," Reay said.
"To know that everything is going to be in place for us is all that we can ask.
"I met Kristjaan last week and we had a really good talk.
“I had a catch up with Lee Johnson while I was waiting to speak to Kristjaan as well and the Academy of Light is buzzing, the first team are doing terrific and we want to do our bit in doing the club proud as well, and making sure we get results on the pitch."