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It looks like Sunderland AFC Ladies will be a key part of the KLD era - Ha’Way The Lasses!

If Sunderland AFC can take women’s football as seriously as the City Group, providing equal access to the support the men get, then happier times may lie ahead for the Lasses.

Plans to grow Sunderland Ladies and develop the team is on the agenda for Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Sunderland AFC, with the club wanting to see the Lasses progress to the Championship as quickly as possible according to the minutes of the recent Fan Collective meeting.

As part of wider discussions surrounding the development of Sunderland between the club and fan groups it was noted that Sunderland Ladies have a big part to play in this transformation, with the club pledging that a women’s programme will be developed with levels of support to match the first team.

This is welcome news to plenty of Lasses fans after feeling that the development of the women’s team has been put to one side in recent years. The squad have had a rough time over the past few years, having been demoted two tiers from the old WSL 1 and having their past two seasons nulled and voided due to Coronavirus. It’s about time they had a bit of luck.

It’s an incredibly exciting time for the whole club, with a clear plan being developed. Women’s football at the moment is on the rise, especially with the new landmark television deal between Sky, the BBC and the FA being announced last week, now is the time to strike while the iron is hot. With the aim to get to the Championship, which is the second tier in the women’s football pyramid, the club have said they are currently developing a strategy to support the women’s side.

Mel Reay has worked wonders with the resources she’s been given in Tier 3. Now it’s time for the club to back her and the squad properly.
Photo by Chris Fryatt

Sporting director Kristjaan Speakman has been in discussions with Lasses’ gaffer Mel Reay to start to identify a strategy for the side to grow over the next three to five years. Part of this would be the provision and use of data and analytics tools to ensure that the Lasses get a leg-up to be able to progress further down the line.

The use of these modern methods in women’s football is, arguably, still in its infancy, and the fact that the club seem to be dedicated to using these tools to help the team is incredibly promising.

You’ve just got to look at the time and investment put into clubs at the top of the WSL to see how successful the women’s team can be. Clubs like Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea have invested in their women’s sides for years and have seen them become successful on a national and international platform.

The City Group, who have stakes in about a dozen football clubs across the world, have shown their commitment to championing the development of women’s football. In 2014 and 2015 they rebranded Manchester City and Melbourne City and gave them facilities and shared training locations with their men’s sides. Both teams have been successful, and the group plan to continue this with other affiliated clubs.

Whether you agree with how Manchester United came to be successful or not, they quickly recognised this growth in women’s football and capitalised on it. Now with the proper facilities, management and - well - a lot of money, they’re challenging for Champions League spots in the WSL.

Will Maltese international Maria Farrugia be the next big star to come through the ranks at SAFC Ladies?
Photo by Chris Fryatt

Sunderland has always been a pillar in the development of women’s football in this country. We’ve produced some of the most talented players in the game; Beth Mead, Steph Houghton, even the current best player in the world, Lucy Bronze.

I’m not getting ahead of myself and suggesting that Sunderland are going to be Champions League contenders in a few seasons, but it is an incredibly exciting time for the club. There have been some valid concerns raised about similar plans being discussed in the past and never being followed through but, for the moment, it’s refreshing to see the Lasses being included in the long-term vision for the club.

We’ve got a fantastic and hard-working squad, led by captain Keys and gaffer Mel Reay. It’s brilliant to see the team’s efforts finally being rewarded with a clear structure being discussed for future development.

Ha’way the Lasses!


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