STOURBRIDGE FC Ladies are targeting promotion next season after a new sponsorship deal means they will go semi-professional.

They have teamed up with main club sponsors Bhandal Dental Practices to go in to the ranks of paid semi-professional footballers for the 2019/20 campaign.

With the spotlight on women’s football ever increasing, the sponsors and club officials are determined to give the open age players a chance for success and to progress.

The team came fourth in the West Midlands Regional League Division One South this season but are aiming to win it next season and get promotion to the Premier Division.

Manager Andy Fisher said recruitment for next season was actively taking place and that trials would be held in early June as they look to recruit the best players they can.

“It is the women’s world cup this year and the game at the top level is now fully professional, with increased media presence from the likes of the BBC who are doing a lot to promote the game.

“We already have a structure of junior teams on the women's side at Stourbridge but the idea is to give them a successful first team to aim their sights on and help them progress in the game.

“No longer is the women’s game seen as a sideline to the men’s football and something which can be played by girls at school but won’t lead to a career.

“We have seen plenty of women make a very successful career in the game on the playing or coaching side, whether here or in the UK and the opportunities are now there.

“By putting it on a more professional level, they will have the tools to progress which is what we want to do.

“Stourbridge is a progressive club and we try to be successful on all levels. Players from this season may be retained but we do anticipate an influx from other clubs.”

Midfielder Sophie Daniel, aged 23, is in her third season with the club and hopes to be part of the set up next season.

She said: “I have been playing football since I was at school and it is something I not only enjoy but want to progress in – to be the best player I can and win things as well.

“The coaching and support we receive here already is first class and the fact the players will be being paid next season, with all the commitment on our side it entails, can only be good.”

The Bhandal brothers, who own dentist practices across the Black Country specialising in NHS and private treatment and also run West One restaurant in Hagley, are long term sponsors of the club.

Vice chairman Andy Bullingham said: “This is an exciting new era for the women's team and we thank the Bhandals once again for their continued support.

“They are winners in business and are football mad like us, they want to associate themselves with success and that is what we want so with their help and hard work, hopefully we can achieve that.”