Isobel Adams discusses the changes that are expected to be made to women’s football in Scotland this summer.
Scottish Women’s Premier League (SWPL) clubs will form a new league and cup competition under the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) umbrella from the start of the 2022/23 season.
The move has been confirmed following months of negotiations between the SWPL, Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) and the Scottish Football Association (SFA) which culminated in the majority of the 17 clubs voting in favour of the switch to the organisation which currently oversees the men’s senior game.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “Everyone at the SPFL is hugely excited by the prospect of working closely with the SWPL clubs to help increase the competitiveness, profile and income of elite women’s football in Scotland.”
While the exact number of clubs and the format of the league competition is still to be agreed upon in the coming weeks, tentative proposals suggest there will be a two-tier league system run alongside a new cup competition. These proposals would see the topflight tier made up of twelve teams, and the second tier eight, for the 2022/23 season.
The SPFL will also reportedly form a new board that will include club representatives, as well as an independent chair, a managing director, and an independent non-executive director tasked with driving the women’s game forward. It is suggested this format will allow for clubs to retain their say in how the leagues and cup competitions are run.
It is hoped that under the SPFL umbrella women’s football in Scotland will become self-sustaining as access to commercial and broadcasting revenue will be improved. There are also ambitions for a fully professional women’s football league in Scotland which this move could help achieve. Currently, there are only three fully professional women’s teams in Scotland and only a few more with a mix of semi-professional and fully professional players.
SFA Head of Girls and Women’s Football, Fiona McIntyre, believes this change can only serve to improve Scottish women’s football. She hopes that the move will ensure Scottish players won’t have to look abroad to have a professional career, though she recognises that it is about more than the handing out of professional contracts.
“We need to make sure the infrastructure at clubs is there and they’re investing in the staff and the resources and the infrastructure around that team to create a performance environment for the players.”
The previous home of top-flight teams, the SWPL, has until now been run by the SWF. Aileen Campbell, Scottish Women’s Football CEO, said of the announcement; “SWF is committed to driving the women’s and girls’ game in Scotland. We are therefore determined to do everything we can to support the elite game as it transitions to the SPFL.”