Scotland’s women’s game – how can we keep improving?

Date: 10th July 2015

WOMEN’S football is at an all-time high. Participation and interest has rocketed since the USA beat Japan 5-2 in the World Cup Final last weekend. But why has Scotland been unable to join the party? The international side has suffered play-off heartache in qualifying for the last two major tournaments and Glasgow City are streets ahead of the rest in the club game for years. Why are big hitters such as Celtic and Rangers, who have now seriously looked at their women’s teams, still not able to compete? Calum McClurkin takes an in-depth view of how Scotland can continue to improve the women’s game.

The international failings are worryingly mirroring the men’s game. Scotland are cosily ranked in the top 25 consistently. Their lowest ranking in history was 11 years ago when sitting 31st. This paints an image that the Scots are a respected nation in the women’s game, but improvement over the years has been modest at best. The improvement in interest, growth and depth of the club game, and participation has not correlated with performances on the pitch.

The last European Championship saw Scotland lose out to Spain in a very tight play-off loss. Last year’s qualifying campaign was a breeze. Winning eight and losing two, twice to top seeds Sweden, in finishing eight points clear in second place. They achieved what their seeding suggested but the Scots crashed out 4-1 on aggregate to the higher ranked, Netherlands.

FIFA receive criticism for their rankings in the men’s game, but their women’s ones seem to be spot on. Scotland can easily dismiss lower ranked opposition but regularly struggle against the higher ranked countries and there are little signs of closing the gap to the nations above.

More money from more-established Football Associations for the women’s game has seen the likes of Germany, France, Italy and England have strengthened whilst women’s football has always been relatively strong in North America, Japan and Scandinavia. Scotland are finding it tough to bridge the gap.

Despite more teams competing in the Scottish league, no one can get close to Glasgow City. They have dominated the Scottish game and continue to do so. They have won eight league titles in a row and seven Scottish Cups in the last ten years. Their success is the shining light in the Scottish game and it peaked last season when they reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The competition still lags behind. Hibernian have always had solid, modest women’s sides. Rangers and Celtic are starting to fully focus on their women’s teams. It will take a few years to truly compete with Glasgow City, but a three-pronged competitive title face would be good for the league game, and will gave positive implications for the international team.

But there is a glaring lack of depth in the club game. The Scottish Cup is evidence that the women’s game is not sophisticated enough. Celtic beat Dundee City 29-0 in the second round of the tournament, and three other clubs withdrew from playing due to a lack of players. For a national cup competition that simply takes away the credibility of it all. Hammerings and withdrawals take away any faith that others can compete and demoralises teams so much that they may not bother trying. This shrinks the playing pool.

It is all well and good if Glasgow City, Celtic and Rangers keep winning everything but those with significantly greater resources must help encourage others to play and compete to improve the welfare of the women’s game.

Attitudes to the women’s game have changed. It is now all about getting more girls playing, having more teams developing and competing, to drive Scotland into the elite country bracket that will see us enter major tournaments.

The views expressed in this article are views expressed by Calum and not those of the SFSA.

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