North East teams miss out on the Women's Super League

If the old saying is to be believed, then winner takes all.

Not, however, in the case of Sunderland Ladies, Football Association Women's Premier League National champions for 2011.

They might have lifted the title to stake their claim as the best in the country, but they still missed out on a place in the potentially lucrative FA Women's Super League, running from April to August.

"We thought we were guaranteed a place, we were top of the league, everything was right on the playing side of things, and we had the backing behind the scenes as well," Sunderland Ladies chairman Maurice Alderson told BBC Look North.

"To be told our bid had failed, it was a devastating blow."

Newcastle United also missed out to leave one of England's traditional football hotbeds without representation in the new eight-team, semi-professional division.

"There are many questions to ask the Football Association. 'Is it geographical?' is one," Newcastle United WFC first-team coach Gary Muttimer said.

"It is quite hard to digest, looking at all these teams progressing and pulling away, and we're not going to be part of that."

Clubs were invited to apply for places in the league in a similar vein to rugby league's Super League, with equal attention paid to business plans and revenue streams as to on-the-field success.

"I was very surprised, but what it came down to was not the quality of the team, it was about a bid. The FA were quite clear about it, it was an open bidding process," said Jen O'Neill, editor of the SheKicks women's football website.

"Sixteen clubs tried to get into it, and they say that in terms of marketing and finance, perhaps the Sunderland and Newcastle bids were not good enough."

Despite the lack of team representation, the north east has lived up to its reputation as a breeding ground for female players as much as it has done for their male counterparts.

Lucy Staniforth at Lincoln, Steph Houghton and Jordan Nobbs at Arsenal, and Jill Scott at Everton are among the former players now representing the region in the division.

"There are eight north east girls playing in the WSL, seven of them were my players, so I can watch a few games and see somebody involved," Sunderland boss Mick Mulhern said.

"I hope I don't lose anybody else, we're building for the future. We want to continue to do well in this league, and dominate it until we can get in the Super League in a few years' time."