14 December 2009 ~ As we reported in WSC 274, a new women's league, the semi-professional Super League, is due to begin in summer 2011. The deadline for clubs to apply for one of the eight places available is this Friday. While the FA have had some commercial success for the new venture, signing a broadcasting deal with ESPN, the task of selecting founder members is not a simple one, with around 16 bids expected by the end of the week. And a regional row has just broken out.
A recent success story in women's football is Sunderland WFC. Last season they were promoted from the Northern Division as champions while also reaching the FA Cup final. Yesterday they won a fourth successive game to move seven points clear at the top of the Premier League (albeit having played seven games more than Arsenal in second). Despite enjoying such a good run, Sunderland manager, and South Shields detective constable, Mick Mulhern is worried. Geographical factors will be considered in Super League selection and Newcastle Ladies have also applied.
Only one north-east club will able take advantage of the £70,000 a year that the FA have promised to new members and Mulhern has decided that attack is best form of defence: "Newcastle have no history. They're not elite, they're ordinary... The FA surely can't choose a team from a lower division against a side that has achieved what we have. If the eight clubs had been decided a year ago it might have been a toss-up for us to be one of them but, if we don't get in now, there's something badly wrong. And if Newcastle get in and we don't, it will make a mockery of this new league – and I would walk away from the game."
You can see his point – this is Sunderland's third spell in the top division while Newcastle have never played at Premier League level – but there's nothing like applying public pressure ahead of a big decision. On Wednesday afternoon the selected cities for the England 2018 World Cup bid will be announced, with Newcastle and Sunderland again running against each other. It's a tense week for the north-east. Ed Upright