Sheffield United: Why Sunday's Premier League Championship play-off could be a key date for women's football at Bramall Lane
This time next week, Sheffield United Ladies could be planning for life as a Women's Super League Club after applying to join the second tier of the revamped competition.
Officials from Bramall Lane expect to discover if their application from a WSL2 licence has been successful following The FA Women’s Premier League Championship play-off, which takes place at Bramall Lane on Sunday.
The match, one of the biggest matches on the women’s football calendar, will see Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic meet for the right to be crowned national FA WPL champions and gain promotion to the FA Women’s Championship.
The governing body, who last year invited clubs to outline why they should be granted a place in the first and second tiers of its competition, is likely to confirm which clubs have been successful immediately after the final whistle.
Carl Shieber, United’s head of football administration, has been instrumental in helping the club prepare its bid for WSL2 status and told The Star earlier this month he felt a “very good” and “serious” case had been made. However, Manchester United’s decision to enter the race, despite previously disbanding their women’s team over a decade ago, has complicated the process and prompted fears Old Trafford’s size, stature and influence will swing the battle in their favour.
Although those fears are not shared by United themselves, their presentation to the FA is thought to emphasise both a long-standing commitment to women’s football and the fact they already host an elite training centre for girls across four different age groups beginning at under-10 level. United’s development programme has already helped produce a number of internationals, including Ellie Roebuck, Jess Sigsworth and Millie Bright, who visited Bramall Lane last term.
Carla Ward (pictured) took charge of United Ladies midway through last season and led the team to third place in the FA Women’s Premier League Midlands Division. They finished third after beating Leicester City 6-1 on Sunday, with Jorden Spurr, Tania Marsden (2), Sophie Bell, Nat Shaw and Hollie Barker writing their names on the scoresheet.
A further indication of United’s desire to promote women’s football came when members of Ward’s squad began undertaking community duties alongside player’s from the men’s first team.
Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s head of women’s football, and FA Women’s Premier League chair Carol West are scheduled to attend this weekend’s fixture. Campbell was previously head of UK Sport.