Sheffield United today submitted an application to be part of the new FA Women's Championship as the Football Association restructures elite women's football.
Earlier this season the FA highlighted plans to change the women's pyramid and from next season, the league structure will look like:
- Tier 1 - FA Women's Super League (currently FA Women's Super League 1)
- Tier 2 - FA Women's Championship (currently FA Women's Super League 2)
- Tier 3 - FA Women's National League - Northern Premier Division / Southern Premier Division (currently FA Women's Premier League Northern Division / Southern Division)
- Tier 4 - FA Women's National League - Division 1 North, Midlands, South East, South West (currently FA Women's Premier League Division 1 North, Midlands, South West, South East)
United currently play in tier four, and are unbeaten in 15 in the league, but as part of the restructuring, the club has been given the opportunity to apply for FA Women's Championship status.
If the application is successful, the ladies will rise two divisions and will be playing at the equivalent level as United's men's team currently play at.
The extensive application has been submitted and confirms United's commitment to the women's game.
The criteria required for FA Women's Championship status includes:
- Increased contact/coaching time with players
- More qualified/experienced coaching professionals
- Improved games programmes throughout the ladies/girls section
- Increased facilities for players, officials and supporters
Currently, United Ladies play in the FA Women's Premier League Midlands Division whilst there's a development team and a Regional Talent Club attached to the club. It is hoped the RTC will hopefully soon start feeding players into the women's senior team. United are one of only 34 clubs in England to have the license from the FA to allow the club to run centres for elite girls across four age groups (U10s, U12s, U14s and U16s). United's development programme has already produced a number of internationals, including Millie Bright, Ellie Roebuck, Sam Tierney, Jess Sigsworth, Beth England and Hannah Cain.
Chief operating officer, Andrew Birks comments: "As a club we have never hidden the fact that we wanted the Ladies playing at the highest possible level. Since bringing the Ladies and RTC in-house, we have mirrored the Academy and men's teams in how we have run with everyone under one umbrella. The level of professionalism and how far we have come in a short space of time is a credit to everyone associated with Sheffield United. We are all working towards the same goal...that is our Ladies team being a force in women's football. With 25 per cent, and growing, of our fan base being female, we are committed to the development of Ladies football within our family club."
Head of football administration, Carl Shieber, added: "We have tabled our application, a bid we believe to be very good, a bid that shows that all at Sheffield United are serious about competing at the highest level of the women's game. We must stress that this is only the start. This is the first step on the journey."
Carla Ward, who has extensive WSL experience, was recruited earlier this season and in her role as interim manager she has already attracted Georgia Stevens and Beth O'Donnell, both of whom have played for England at U17s level, to the club. The Ladies currently play home matches at SteelPhalt Shirecliffe Academy.