Sunderland Ladies have released their financial accounts for 2016/17 – and they pose a big decision for Stewart Donald to make.
Donald and fellow director Charlie Methven – who were officially unveiled at the Stadium of Light on Monday – alluded to the fact that streamlining would have to take place.
And with the long-term future of Sunderland Ladies up in the air, with players and staff in limbo as the FA consider their bid for a place in the new-look women’s pyramid, Donald must weigh up whether to keep the team going.
The Lady Black Cats, who currently compete in the top tier of the FA Women’s Super League, announced losses of £424,000 for the financial year ending July 31, 2017.
During that time the club’s turnover fell by £4,000 to £96,000 – with almost half of that formed of the £43,000 the club received when star striker Beth Mead was snapped up by Arsenal.
Gate receipts were also on the decline, falling from £21,000 in 2015/16 to just £12,000 last year after moving to South Shields’ Mariners Park from their long-term Hetton home.
The club also revealed that they pocketed just £2,000 in sponsorship during 2016 and provided no such figure for 2017.
Despite reverting to a part-time model in January 2017, Sunderland saw their wage bill fall by just £13,000 from £427,000 in 2016 to £414,000 in 2017.
The Black Cats are supported by Northumbria University, and are currently based at their facilities having left the Academy of Light at the beginning of last season.
These financial figures will certainly give Donald plenty of food for thought can he continue to plow money into the female side of the club, or will he prefer to see that money spent elsewhere?
Only Manchester City (£749,000) and Reading (£675,484) reported bigger losses than the Black Cats in the most recent financial year.
The costs may only rise for Donald and Sunderland should they be awarded a place in the new-look FA Women’s Super League.
Melanie Copeland’s side will find out on Sunday where they will be playing next season with clubs such as West Ham and Manchester United battling it out for places in the elite of women’s football.
It is understood that the Black Cats did submit a bid for a Tier One having deferred their application from the initial November deadline for existing FA WSL clubs.
Sunderland instead submitted a bid in March alongside new applicants to the league and – if they are successful – running costs may rise again.
Players would be required to be present at the club for a minimum of 16 hours of contact time per week, rising to 20 by 2020, which naturally comes with a cost.
Tier One clubs will also have to enter an Academy team in an FA league and will be expected to attract crowds of at least 1,000 to each home game.
By comparison, Sunderland’s most recent home crowd was just 226.
Donald will certainly have to consider the viability of continuing the team if these running costs continue to spiral – but he has shown his support for the women’s game in the past.
While at Oxford United, one of Donald’s companies provided sponsorship to the U’s women’s set-up who compete in the division below Sunderland.