Sunderland AFC Women (Sunderland W.F.C., Sunderland Ladies) is a women's football club based in Sunderland, North East England. They play their home games at The Hetton Centre in Hetton-le-Hole, Tyne and Wear.
The club began in 1989 as a five-a-side team called The Kestrels and won the Yorkshire and Humberside League in 1990. Over the next decade they competed in the Northern Premier asCowgate Kestrels, RTM Newcastle Kestrels and Blyth Spartans Kestrels. In 2000 the club merged with Sunderland Ladies to become Sunderland Women's FC and won promotion to the FA Women's Premier League National Division.
The new club was originally financed as part of the established professional Sunderland A.F.C. men's club, but following financial troubles in 2004, the women's side was forced to become financially independent. Sunderland A.F.C. provide the kit and the home ground.
On Sunday 10 April 2005 they won promotion from the Northern Division as champions. In the 2005–06 season, they finished 9th in the league (then the penultimate position), but stayed up after tying a promotion/relegation playoff against Southern runner-ups Bristol City W.F.C. 5–5 on aggregate.
In Season 2007–08 Sunderland finished in 3rd position in The Women's Premier League, Northern Division, behind Champions Nottingham Forest and Lincoln City. The top 3 were almost in a league of their own as Sunderland finished 17 points ahead of 4th placed Newcastle – who only finished 15 points ahead of bottom-of-the-table Crewe.Sunderland manager Mick Mulhern
With team re-building completed, the 2008–09 season began with high hopes for the Wearsiders who had six England youth internationals in their ranks and had recently recruited full England international midfielder Kelly McDougall from Everton Ladies.
On 22 March 2009, Sunderland WFC reached the final of the FA Women's Cup after beating Chelsea 3–0. Goals from Williams (2) and Gutteridge ensured their place in the final against holders Arsenal at Pride Park Stadium, home of Derby County on 4 May.
In the final, favourites Arsenal beat Sunderland 2–1. Despite dominating possession and creating several chances, Arsenal found it difficult to convert their opportunities, partly due to dogged Sunderland defending and the brilliant goalkeeping of Helen Alderson. Arsenal's Katie Chapman scored in the first half, their second coming in extended 2nd half injury-time from Kim Little. However, Sunderland never gave up and scored a consolation goal from Kelly McDougall just before the final whistle. Lucy Bronze gave a superb display at right-back, earning herself the Player of the Match Award for the Black Cats.
Sunderland won promotion to the National Premier Division after defeating Preston 4–0 away in the last match of the 2008–09 season.
Back in the top flight, Sunderland exceeded expectations and topped the league for five months. They also handed Arsenal Ladies only their second league defeat in six years. However, the club's bid to join theFA WSL was rejected on commercial and marketing grounds – leading to the departure of star players Lucy Bronze, Jordan Nobbs, Lucy Staniforth and Helen Alderson.
Despite the exodus of these players, Sunderland secured the FA Womens' National Premier League title with two games to spare, following their victory over Millwall on 3 April 2011.
Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.