Sunderland legend Gary Bennett backs new governing body for women’s football

Written by on 30th November 2023

Sunderland AFC Women celebrate against Manchester United Women. Credit: SportsByte

Former Sunderland and Cardiff City defender, Gary Bennett has backed plans for a new governing body for women’s football saying the news comes at a “good time.”

North East teams Sunderland Women and Durham Women are among the clubs in the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship that unanimously voted to establish a new governing body for the sport, separate from the Football Association.

It follows wishes from the FA that the women’s game in England should take over control of the commercial activities of the game, similar to the governance structure of the men’s Premier League which broke away from the Football League in 1992.

The move could mean more revenue for clubs in the North East with Sunderland and Durham both competing in the Women’s Championship and Newcastle plying their trade in the third tier of women’s football this season.

Bennett, who has had involvement in Sunderland University’s women’s team, believes the change comes at a “good time” in the growth of the women’s game.

“It’s a good thing,” Bennett told Spark.

“When you look at it and then look at the male game, it is especially good to see how the women’s game has developed quickly over the last two or three years.

“It is good that they have their own governing body now, it comes at a good time.”

Gary Bennett playing for Sunderland AFC. Credit: SportsByte

However, Bennett was cautious to say whether it would have a large effect on the North East’s women’s teams in the short term saying that he did not think it will impact Sunderland and Durham “too much.”

In five years’ time, however, Bennett is more optimistic that the women’s game will catch up to the men’s game in some areas.

“Will it get bigger than the men’s game? No” he said.

“But what it has become is a game where it is getting on equal grounds with the men’s game in terms of attendances, development and marketing.”

Sue Campbell, director of women’s football at the FA said, “Each of our 24 clubs and the league itself wants the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship to be setting the standards for women’s football around the world, and this venture into a new governing body is the next step in us achieving that ambition.”

The FA, who ran the WSL since 2010 and the Women’s Championship since 2014, say it is a “historical moment for the women’s professional game.”

Sunderland got off to a flying start in the Championship this season and currently sit level on points with league leaders Charlton after 11 games. Durham meanwhile sit seventh in the Championship and don’t look like they will be dragged into a relegation battle.

The other North East team this change could impact is Newcastle United who play a level below the Championship and are second with a game in hand over title challengers Burnley.

When approached for comment Sunderland and Durham both said they had nothing to add to the FA’s statement.

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