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Sunderland Ladies embarrassed in first game at Mariners Park - is it time for Bain to act?

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Sunderland AFC Ladies played their first home game of the season at Mariners Park last Saturday against one of the top sides in country, Chelsea. Unfortunately for the lasses, the visitors ran out 6-0 winners which, aside from being an awful start to life in South Shields, highlights just how big the gap between us and the elite of world football really is.

Sunderland AFC Ladies

Now, before I continue with this article I just want to be clear about a couple of things. Firstly, I understand the financial situation that the whole club finds itself in, and so I understand that unfortunately the Ladies team will suffer under Bain’s reign to some extent, as will all other parts of the club.

Chelsea Ladies FC v Sunderland AFC Ladies  - WSL
Last weekend’s Chelsea side included a number of regular international players
Photo by Graham Hughes/Getty Images

Secondly, it is very difficult to accurately measure how much money the Ladies team generates and therefore how much money they will need. This is mainly because of the lack of information we have been given from the club: Martin Bain has not even made a statement on the new FA ruling that will lead to Sunderland Ladies’ relegation for non-footballing reasons.

However, we can look at the statement made by Yeovil Town regarding their Ladies team and use their figures as a rough guide for the purposes of this article, so let’s do that.

Yeovil Town Ladies chairman, Steve Allison, has stated that the club will need to raise £350,000 to secure professional status and remain in the top tier of women’s football. A place that, like our lasses, they have reached on their own merit.

So if we are to assume that SAFC Ladies also require a similar figure then surely that money can be generated, or simply invested by the club?

But where will the club find that money to invest? I hear you ask into your internet device. Well, we could afford to pay Joleon Lescott a reported £30,000 a week for four-and-a-half months of service, which means we spent a grand total of £540,000 (or thereabouts) on a measly two appearances.

Crystal Palace v Sunderland - Premier League
Cheers, Dave
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

As stated above - I do understand that at this moment in time Martin Bain is actively cutting corners to secure the club’s finances, and sacrifices have to be made to do that. But our women’s team is not a corner to be cut. It is not an acceptable sacrifice.

Sunderland Ladies have been the most successful part of our club for years now. They’ve won the second tier of women’s football 4 years in a row (in style) and earned their place among the top teams in England. In the recent spring series Sunderland finished fifth with only professional sides ahead of them in the table. The fact that they haven’t been drawing great crowds recently is a crying shame and one that we all, myself included, should make an effort to improve.

An adult ticket to see the lasses play at Mariners Park will cost you £4. A family ticket is £12. If we as fans can get behind this team with even a fraction of the emotion and passion we show the men, we will be giving the team the appreciation and support that they have truly earned, not to mention giving Mr. Bain nowhere to hide on this issue.

His decisions to move the team to a training ground at Northumbria University and, before that, revert the team to part-time status have been spun as positives by Bain. Yet we haven’t heard what the players themselves really think. Can we imagine that their opinion on it is in line with his? I doubt that.

Of course, it is still early days to see what effect the change in facilities could have on the team, but the decision made by the FA to make the top flight exclusive to professional teams clearly wasn’t properly thought-out, and is undeniably unfair on teams like Yeovil and Sunderland.

The decision to revert to part-time status shows an alarming lack of ambition and faith in the women’s team, compounded by the absence of any statement regarding the new top flight. It has become clear that Martin Bain has let the Ladies fall off his radar when they are just as important an issue as any other at this club.