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Clock ticking down over women’s football governing body decision
TIME is running out for a decision on which organisation will govern Scotland’s top league next season. Soundings suggest that a majority of the ten SWPL 1 clubs are in favour of leaving Scottish Women’s Football and playing under the auspices of the SPFL.
SWF chief executive Aileen Campbell will make a last-ditch presentation to the clubs on Friday, with those in SWPL 2 also invited to attend. It follows one given by her SPFL counterpart Neil Doncaster five days before Christmas, and which was largely well received.
If it was merely a case of SWPL 1 being subsumed into the men’s governing body the clubs would be unlikely to give it their blessing. However, what the SPFL are proposing is a more democratic subsidiary model.
The idea, as I understand it, is to set up an organisation with its own board of directors – which would include club representatives – and chief executive. It would additionally have the SPFL’s administrative and commercial resources at its disposal.
The absolute key for the clubs is a model which will bring much more money into the top end of the game. Would, for example, FA WSL sponsors Barclays be interested in backing a professionally run league offering them greater exposure through improved media and broadcasting deals?
SWF, to date, has not been able to offer the clubs concrete proposals to match those of the SPFL. The women’s governing body is an affiliated national association of the Scottish FA and has no political clout; nor, as things stand, does it appear to have the resources to drive forward an ambitious professional league.
It is, in any case, a taxing juggling act for SWF to grow the professional game while simultaneously looking after the very different requirements of recreational football. The chief executive is likely to have to come up with some impressive proposals on Friday to head off what seems an inevitable switch to the SPFL model.
The SWPL 1 clubs look set to meet very quickly after Friday’s presentation and come to a decision about next season. If there is to be a major change of direction it will involve much planning, preparation and implementation – which will have to start by the end of this month and be completed by early summer.
TODAY’S resumption of football has not gone entirely to plan. Five of the scheduled 16 Scottish Cup third round ties have been postponed, mainly because of Covid, with a further two having to wait until second round games have been completed.
On a day which seems certain to witness some double-figure scorelines – Hearts beat Raith Rovers 24-0 at the same stage when the Cup was last played in 2019 – the most competitive match is Partick Thistle versus Motherwell. The sides sit ninth and sixth in SWPL 1.
Far from being displeased at being involved in the only tie involving two top division teams, Motherwell head coach Paul Brownlie relishes it. “Honestly, no,” he replied when asked if he would have preferred lower league opponents at this stage of the competition.
“January is a huge month for us – we don’t play any of the top three teams and these are games we can go and try to win.”
There has been a huge turnover of players since Brownlie was appointed last May. He estimates 15 have departed and 14 come in. Recruiting former Scotland midfielder Leanne Crichton as player/assistant coach was an obvious coup, and the he cites Amy Anderson, Katie Rice, Carla Boyce and London Pollard as further significant additions.
Motherwell lost 3-2 to Thistle in the league in September and Brownlie believes his opposite number deserves huge credit for the team’s performances since their unexpected last minute promotion to the top flight.
“Brian Graham has done a fantastic job,” he confirmed. “Thistle are very well drilled and organised. They’ve had better results than us against the top three and I know it’s going to a very tough game.”
Holders Glasgow City could have Eileen Gleeson’s first signing, Northern Ireland striker Kerry Beattie, in the line-up for their tie against Queen’s Park, also at Petershill Park – although it is subject to international clearance.
Two of the more intriguing ties are, unfortunately, Covid casualties. Grant Scott was Hibernian head coach in the losing 2019 final to City, and was due to be plotting their downfall with his new club St Johnstone.
Championship South side Falkirk, too, will have to wait for a 450-mile round trip to face Sutherland. The home side won the Highlands and Islands League Cup last October.
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