Sunderland Women have lodged their bid to become part of the proposed Super League. And Chairman Maurice Alderson believes that strong support behind the scenes will help land the Premier League leaders a place in the new elite set-up.
The Football Association is setting up an eight-team semi-professional league running from March to October, starting in 2011. The aim is to push the womens game to a higher level, in terms of popularity as well as quality. The FA has already signed a deal with ESPN to televise the games for the first four seasons of the new competition.
The deadline for bids arrived yesterday, with around 16 clubs expected to compete for a place. The FA is backing each successful club with up to £70,000 a year for two years with guidelines on how the money should be spent.
Each bidding club has had to show the FA what it can offer, including its own business plan for the future, and Alderson believes support from the clubs bidding partners has put Sunderland who play their home games at Eppleton CW in Hetton in a strong position. SAFC chief executive Steve Walton has pledged the Stadium of Light clubs support and there is also strong backing from the University of Sunderland, City of Sunderland Council, Hetton Town Council, the Hetton Trust and Gateshead College Academy of Sport. Sean Percival, Director of Sport at the University, believes the partnership with Sunderland will be a long-term arrangement and will be a major help in the development of the womens game.
Sunderland Women chairman Alderson said: We have worked hard to put the best possible bid together, and I am extremely grateful for the backing we have received. Our partners are backing us with facilities and kit, as well as sports science and medical backing. They will also be assisting us in marketing, media and promotions so they all play a vital role in our future. Our bid signals our intent to become part of the Super League structure and to play a major role in the evolution of the game.
On the field, we have proved more than capable of holding our own with the best. We have beaten the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Leeds this season to go top of the National Premier League and this follows on from us reaching the FA Cup Final last season. Having worked hard behind the scenes, we can now boast vital backing. All of the partners have pledged their support and are prepared to give us facilities and manpower to enhance the bid and continue the development of the club. Our aim is to compete at the highest level for the foreseeable future. We have also received many letters of support from junior clubs and Centres of Excellence from Northumberland to the Tees Valley, who are behind us all the way. We believe the bid is very strong because of the partnership we have created, but we are well aware that competition is fierce and we face an anxious wait.
The FA plans to draw up a shortlist of clubs and then invite them to Wembley in January to further discuss their plans. A final decision on the eight successful clubs is due in March.
Courtesy of Neil Watson, Sports Editor, Sunderland Echo.