The Football Association have confirmed that Sheffield United will be playing in the FA Women's Championship next season.
United's extensive bid to play in the second tier, after a restructuring of women's elite football, has today (Monday) been confirmed as successful. Katie Brazier, the FA's head of women's leagues and competitions, delivered the news and all at United are delighted.
Manager Carla Ward commented: "This is a momentous day for Sheffield United. There's total commitment, right at the highest level of the club, to get to where we want to be. That's great to see and now, thanks to a successful bid, we have a busy summer ahead as we prepare to make our mark on the FA Women's Championship."
United Ladies general manager, Lee Walshaw: "We've been planning for this for the past eighteen months and now we have the green light we can begin to roll out our plans. We are ready to go, we can begin straight away. Everything is set and in place. Carla has played in the FA Women's Super League, she has contacts and relationships and now it is a case of pulling everything together ahead of kicking off in the new league in September."
In March an extensive application was submitted to the FA, meeting the criteria required for FA Women's Championship status, and this was followed up by a Blades delegation making a presentation at Wembley in April.
United have openly displayed a commitment to women's football, particularly in the last two seasons, and will continue to do so, with the backing of co-owners Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah.
Chief operating officer, Andrew Birks, commented: "The owners, board and everyone associated with the club are absolutely thrilled with the news that the ladies will mirror the men's team in playing in the second tier next season.
"We have never hidden the fact that we wanted the ladies playing at the highest possible level. 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. But we will not rest on our laurels, the aim now is our ladies team being a force in women's football.
"Figures show our female fanbase is growing and we are delighted with that, we are committed to promoting ladies inclusion and participation within our family club and we would be delighted to see male and female Blades fans supporting Sheffield United Ladies on a regular basis."
In the 2017/18 season, United Ladies played 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.
Preparations for the 2018/19 FA Women's Championship will start immediately and plans for home fixtures to be staged at the Olympic Legacy Park and Bramall Lane.
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