SAFCSA London Sponsor Ladies team
Sunderland AFC Ladies were formed in 1999 when East Durham Houghall Kestrels and Sunderland Ladies combined to come under the umbrella of ‘Sunderland Women’. Although from 2005/6 the football club provided the team with playing kit, those early years the team was run on an entirely voluntary basis having to meet all their other costs, pitch hire, travel and hotel expenses etc. Despite this, the club consistently performed to a very high standard; playing four seasons in the Northern Division and six seasons in the Women’s Premier League. Sadly the club’s relegation from the Premier League in 2006-7 led to two players (Steph Houghton and Jill Scott) leaving to further their careers, in due course becoming well known as England internationals.
The team returned to the top level of the Premier League in 2009 and in the same season reached the final of the Women’s FA Cup, losing to Arsenal. This increasingly high profile achieved by the team progressively encouraged the football club to add further support, initially with training kit and tracksuits then, from 2012, some assistance with travel and accommodation costs. It also provided limited backing for an application for membership of the FA Women’s Super League when it was first formed in 2010. Sadly this attempt proved unsuccessful and led to three more future international players (Lucy Bronze, Jordan Nobbs and Demi Stokes) leaving the club.
The team continued to be successful with three consecutive Premier League titles, a factor which undoubtedly served them well when the Women’s Super League was extended to a second division and the club attained membership, at the same time being formally integrated into the SAFC structure as Sunderland AFC Ladies Ltd. and being provided with the use of the training facilities at the Academy of Light and the Hetton Centre for home games. There had already been occasional attendance by London Branch members at games played by the Sunderland ladies’ team in the South, but in the Ladies championship winning final season in the Premier League the Branch had also taken a more positive and formal approach by commencing sponsorship of the team.
During the first season in the senior competition the Branch provided mascots at the Ladies’ games at Barnet, Millwall, Oxford, Reading and Yeovil as well as providing vocal support to the team at those games. The team’s promotion in that first WSL season provided further publicity opportunities and the Branch now has a permanent advertising board at the team’s home ground at Hetton, which is also used by the men’s Under-23 and Youth teams. It also has occasional adverts in the SAFShe programme and the bibs worn by matchday volunteers recognise the Branch’s ongoing sponsorship.
The team is now in its third season at the top WSL level and will have away games against Arsenal, Bristol, Chelsea, Reading and Yeovil at which the support of our members will no doubt be much appreciated. A full list of the team’s fixtures can be found at :