By Lewis Michie
This year has taught us a lot about Scottish football – this past Summer might have been the biggest learning curve. While the Women’s World Cup may not have had the conclusion we were all hoping for, it showed that Scotland as a nation is ready to accept Women’s football into the fold and into the country’s heart. Even if the most optimistic of us all were surprised at the very level of support, and consistency of which it had been retained.
We’ve all seen those standard comments under a Twitter post about a Women’s football team – “Who cares?” or “I’ve seen better standard football from a bunch of Primary school lads” or the classic comment on the players’ looks.
That was all too common even just a year or so back, but when the World Cup rolled around we started to see a bit less of it – a lot less of it actually. Far more supportive comments and pride, a realisation that “Hold on a minute, we’ve got a decent national side here, who cares what gender they are, we get to actually watch Scotland at a World Cup.”
It was silly to start with that people would write off a team based on their gender, but at least people who were wrong initially were finally seeing the light.
Again though, even the most optimistic worried if this positive outlook would keep going, sure folk were cheering on the Women when they were at a World Cup, but would we drop back into the same old once that was said and done? This fear was only heightened after the crushing blow of being eliminated in such disappointing circumstances.
Even with all of that said, so far pretty much so good. The rate of those types of comments remains drastically down, media coverage of the Women’s game of course isn’t what it was during the World Cup, but it’s certainly a step up on what it was before the tournament. It’s clear to see further investment going into the game. Ranger’s players will be on semi-professional contracts as of January and there are murmurs that a few other sides will follow suit. Sides such as Aberdeen have been brought into the fold by the men’s club, becoming fully part of the club and benefiting from sponsorship and facilities that come along with it.
Of course, it’s important not to just sit happily on what you already have – the Scottish Women’s game needs to continue to strive for more.
While it’s better than nothing, the coverage of the game on television is still minimal and that needs to step up next season, especially for tournaments such as the Scottish Cup that don’t require as much background knowledge going in as a league game for a viewer.
There is also a case of where they matches are being played. Glasgow City this week sealed their 13th title in a row in the SWPL One – the top division in the game. However, they secured that success against Motherwell – on a public park.
More games played in Scotland’s biggest stadiums would be nice, but just having them in a proper ground would be a far better start – especially somewhere like the central belt there is a huge amount of grounds for the likes of Junior teams that are far more suitable than a public park. If that’s too much of a cost for the teams themselves, then the SFA should be making it possible – you simply cannot expect your league to grow when you’re forcing your most successful side ever to play on a park.
Kick-off times need looking at too – we should be making it easy for more fans to get to games. Aberdeen Women are already SWFL Division One North Champions, they’ll lift the trophy following their game at home this weekend against Dunfermline Athletic – and if they avoid defeated, they’ll make it an entire season undefeated.
Lucky for Dons fans, they can have a double header – Aberdeen Men play against Celtic just a two minute walk away from the Women’s Sports Village Venue. Not so lucky – the end of the game against Celtic (Kick-Off 12:15) will certainly overlap with the Women’s 2pm start.
Even just half an hour later would give supporters the chance to see the conclusion of the men’s game and the very start of the Women’s match – with a chance to for a drink and something to eat in between.
Instead, some spectators at Pittodrie might just end up giving the second game a miss – a great shame really.
Things have improved a whole lot for Scottish Women’s football over the past year or so, but now is not the time to look back and pat ourselves on the back. Lets get to another World Cup and get out of the group stages this time, lets have Women’s games on TV every weekend – lets get these players paid and playing in real grounds with proper pitches and a healthy crowd. Then we can maybe enjoy our work – but only if we do it before other nations leave us behind.