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Sheffield FC Ladies defeated by financial pressures

Saddened: Sheffield FC's Helen Mitchell.
Saddened: Sheffield FC's Helen Mitchell.
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Sheffield FC Ladies will continue to field a team next season, despite their shock withdrawal from the Women’s Super League.

The club last week announced their decision to withdraw from next season’s Women’s Championship, citing financial reasons as the catalyst.

Only last month the club’s application to remain in the second tier was accepted and they were set to be one of three Yorkshire clubs in the 12-team division along with Sheffield United Women and Doncaster Belles.

But following boardroom talks, the decision was made to withdraw the team from the league. A club statement confirming the decision said that “financial commitments necessary to compete at this level are proving now too onerous”.

Helen Mitchell, general manager for Sheffield Ladies, says the club will attempt to rise from the ashes next season but admits the withdrawal has hit the whole club hard.

She said: “It was difficult for staff and players to hear and it was a very, very difficult message to communicate to them.

“As someone who was there from the start, I’ve seen us rise from the bottom to near to the very top so you can imagine how I feel.

“There will still be a team representing the club next season, and, hopefully, we will have some of the development squad players in it.”

The team has operated on a tight and stringent budget but despite this they achieved a hugely respectable fifth-placed finish in their maiden season in the WSL2 in 2016.

They followed that up with another solid showing last season, again finishing fifth in the table.

Mitchell, who has also managed the club during her 15-year stay at Sheffield, admits it is likely that the vast majority of the playing squad and manager Zoe Johnson will depart following the decision.

She added: “Certain players will want to leave and we can’t stop them or blame them for that, because not everybody will be wanting to drop down the levels.

“Full-time jobs in football, especially for women, are few and far between but we are doing all we can to help players and staff get set up elsewhere.”

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post recently, manager Johnson described the ongoing battle that the club faced to compete with other clubs, many of whom are propped up by men’s Premier League teams.

She said: “It’s a massive challenge and it’s only going to get stronger and stronger.

“Clubs at the top (WSL) have got to be full-time and have to have the budgets. The clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City, that have the backing, can do that.

“We’re moving in the right direction but we’ve not got massive amounts of money to just get who we want.”

Following the withdrawal, the club are likely to play at Step 4 in the pyramid next season, with an announcement on their future expected next week.