These are the FA requirements Sunderland Ladies must meet to ensure promotion next season
Sunderland Ladies are top of the National League - but will have to present a successful application to the FA if they are to gain promotion to the Championship.
Here, we explain everything you need to know about the requirements the club must meet before the Ladies are allowed to move into the second-tier.
Are Sunderland Ladies likely to finish top of the National League?
At the moment, Mel Reay’s side are top of the third-tier by six points and are unbeaten in all competitions this campaign.
But finishing first doesn’t guarantee promotion?
Usually, the winners of the National League North and South play-off for a spot in the Championship.
This year, though, both clubs will be offered the chance to gain promotion after contesting the showpiece final - but only after they have submitted a successful application to the FA.
In short, Sunderland Ladies’ prospects of promotion is reliant on two crucial factors: (1) finishing in the National League’s automatic promotion spots (2) submitting a successful application to the FA.
When does the application have to be submitted?
Sunderland must submit their application to the FA by the week commencing January 20 (today), so have up until Friday.
The Echo understands Sunderland intended to prepare and submit a bid in time for the deadline and are working on their presentation to England’s governing body.
Who decides on the application?
A technical panel including the FA’s women’s football club manager, licence and compliance manager plus independent technical experts from the legal, marketing and finance world.
When will we know the outcome?
They will meet to discuss the application during the week commencing February 3, with feedback provided to Sunderland during this week.
Sunderland have until the 10th day of next month to respond to feedback, and will be called into an interview in front of the technical panel during the week commencing February 17.
A promotion application subgroup will meet to discuss technical panel recommendations on February 24.
So the Ladies will know their fate by the end of next month.
How much investment will Stewart Donald have to put into Sunderland Ladies for the team to definitely be promoted?
Sunderland Ladies lost £424,000 during the financial year ending July 2017. That deficit largely explains why they failed to apply for a Championship place for the beginning of the 2018/19 season.
With former chairman Ellis Short withdrawing support as he looked to sell the club, Sunderland failed to meet the FA’s requirements.
This time around, the exact figure the club must provide remains unclear.
However, Sunderland Ladies will move towards a mixture of full and part-time contracts for players and support staff.
At present, the women’s team isn’t paid a regular wage, with many working or studying alongside their playing careers.
So fresh investment in wages will be required and the club will have to commit to providing proof of funds and willingness to keep the Ladies sustainable with an eye towards growing commercial income.
What do the FA say about the amount of money required to run a club in the Championship?
Speaking to the Echo, an FA spokesperson said: “There are a variety of funding models in the women’s pyramid.
“However, there is not a specific financial figure that the clubs have to commit to invest in order to achieve their tier one or two licence.”
What has Stewart Donald said about Sunderland Ladies previously?
“The Ladies team is an important part of our Sunderland family,” Stewart Donald explained in June, 2018.
“When you look at their history, seven of the current England women’s squad was produced by Sunderland, which is something to be very proud of.
“We want to continue the club’s long-standing tradition of developing top-class women’s footballers, as well as giving young girls the opportunity to aspire to play for Sunderland when they grow up.”