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Following World Cup popularity, did Sunderland AFC give up on their Ladies team too easily?

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“Have Sunderland pulled the plug or downgraded the Ladies team too soon on a future potential revenue stream?” asks Gary Engel in his piece about the value of women’s football on Wearside.

The Women’s World Cup ended on Tuesday night for England. It was a rather familiar ending, unfortunately. England play well, exceed expectations, leave the pitch with heads held high but by the misfortune of a penalty save are eliminated from another tournament.

That’s three in a row for the England Women, knocked out at the semi-finals again.

As football supporters we’ve all seen those nearly-moments and wondered what might have been. The England Woman’s team may not have reached the final, but they might have won the recognition of the nation in recent weeks. Certainly, the last two matches have seen a record television audience for both the quarter-final and semi-final matches.

In Sunderland we can feel proud to see one of our own as England Captain - Steph Houghton - as well as six other former players in the current England side.

It wasn’t to be this time for the Lionesses, but if they take anything from the city it should be great character.

Sunderland AFC Ladies v Manchester City Women - WSL Photo by Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

The England manager, Phil Neville, has been overwhelmed by the progress that has been made in the 18 months that he has been in charge.

Woman’s football has made seismic strides over the last 5 years in England, although one reason they are still behind the United States is in terms of funding, but why is that?

Well, unlike the men’s game, in the United States women’s football is the fastest growing sport that side of the pond. With popularity, money invariably follows and hence the United States ladies could be on course to win the World Cup for the third consecutive time.

Obviously, the national game isn’t driven by money the way league competitions are. But as in other sports, if funding can be put into the best training, coaching and facilities, it gives athletes an advantage over their competitors.

Such is the United States’ dominance at international level, its clear they’ve had the best training in their sport putting them ahead of the rest.

England v Sweden: 3rd Place Match - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

It leaves England’s Lionesses asking the question: how do they bridge the gap?

Well, if there were a few more clubs with the kind of support as Manchester City’s women’s side then, considering the strides made recently, it could well be possible. Unfortunately there are not many clubs with such funding, even at Premier League level.

Maybe with this World Cup and the number that have tuned in to watch England’s final two games of the tournament will persuade more clubs to make a serious investment into the future of the women’s game.

This leads back to the Stadium of Light, making us wonder: is it mainly Premier League clubs that can seriously afford to invest?

We know Sunderland were in a very difficult financial position when they were forced to make the decision regarding funding the Sunderland Ladies last year. If Adidas’ offer to pay the England women the same bonus as France received for winning the 2018 men’s World Cup is anything to go by, the future could be very interesting.

Currently it’s a financial issue, but have Sunderland pulled the plug or downgraded the Ladies team too soon on a future potential revenue stream?