It was announced on Friday that long-time servant of the Sunderland AFC Ladies, Charlotte Potts would be leaving the club to join FF Lugano, a Swiss football team competing in the Swiss Women’s Super League that attracts crowds in that usually number in their dozens.
Manager Mel Reay made it clear in her interview with the Echo, published shortly after the news broke, that she was disappointed that the defender had submitted a transfer request before Christmas.
The move comes as a shock for most fans, but perhaps not as a surprise. Undoubtedly nobody would have expected Potts to leave midseason and certainly not to join a club in Switzerland that are currently bottom of the table and at risk of relegation, with no wins, one draw, and eight losses; 28 goals conceded and only two scored.
However, this is in fact the sixth time Potts has left Sunderland for pastures new, which is why it should come as no real surprise. In interviews and comments she has given in the past, it is clear to see that Potts is ambitious and is rightly wanting to do what is best for her career and personal development.
The experience of a new league, challenge, and living amongst the mountains and lakes of Switzerland is one which many would not wish to pass on either. Undoubtedly though, it comes as a huge blow to the Ladies.
Potts has arguably been one of the best players for the team since rejoining in the summer from Hibernian. A stalwart figure at the back, her commanding presence, experience, tackles, defensive recoveries and ball progression have been vital towards the lasses not only in defence, but in attack too.
Apart from one game against Durham in which she came off injured, Potts has played every minute of the 10 league games so far, scoring once and assisting 3. Not bad statistics for a centre-back.
So whether is she going and what can Pottsy expect to find on her alpine adventure? We know that FF Lugano is an independent amateur women’s club formed in 1976 based near the Italian border and that it’s owned by an Italian-American, Emanuele Gaiarin, who runs a wine business in Virginia.
They’ve run an educational programme that involves importing US players on a tourist or educational visas, as is detailed in this Washington Post article from 2019. After some initially impressive results, the wheels have started to come off this season... so to understand more about the Swiss Women’s Super League, I spoke to Craig King a freelance writer who has followed Swiss football for over 10 years.
You can follow his work on his Twitter profile @FootballSwissEN and he writes a fantastic and detailed piece on the last 50 years of women’s football in Switzerland which you can read here, and yesterday Craig gave me the lowdown on the league, the club
The league and Swiss women’s football in general is growing all the time. The recent successes of the nation has really helped in that regard and every qualification, especially the shootout with vs. Czech to qualify for the Euros, is huge because it seems to be in a critical part of growth. Every new qualification helps grow the game here and inspires for the future, any failure would obviously set that back.
The league itself has bigger backing now with AXA Suisse becoming the first major sponsor of the league and cup in 2020 in its fiftieth year and increased live coverages of matches too.
FC Zurich are the most successful team with 22 titles and have dominated for the last decade until more recently. FC Neunkirch won the league and cup double in 2017, their first title, but then had to withdraw from the league due to high costs.
In the last two years, Servette FCCF are the new force. They were promoted in 2018, were the likely winners of the title in 19/20 before the season was abandoned for the pandemic and won their first title last season.
They took the UCL spot in 19/20 but lost to Atletico Madrid in qualifying before, they beat Glasgow City this year and did themselves proud in the Group Stage. One of their home games attracted 12k, which is excellent. Their Twitter account is also one of the best, men’s or women’s in the country.
As for FF Lugano, they had a brief spell of success and were in the UWCL after finishing second behind Zurich in 2018-19. They memorably played Man City, losing heavily but managing to score, which was nice. The Swiss broadcaster RSI also showed free worldwide coverage online. They were also one of the few clubs to have a dedicated Twitter account until recently. It isn’t going well from what I can see this season, they have only one point from nine games.
It’s certainly an interesting move for Potts and a situation Sunderland will have to address quickly. The loss of Potts which certainly be felt within the team, but we have managed to deal with it before…technically five times before.
It will certainly be interesting to see what, if any, moves Sunderland make over the coming weeks and whether Reay has to change her tactics and formation to adjust. Ideally, most fans would like to see the club sign some forwards and will now need to look at adding a couple of centre backs to their wish list.
The gaffer indicated that discussions have been going on over the past few days about potential new signings, with the recruitment of players with experience being a key attribute, and we’ll wait and see what moves are made in the next couple of weeks.