THERE will be plenty for the Scottish Building Society SWPL clubs to mull over on Wednesday when they discuss the three-week suspension of football. An emergency meeting of the league management committee is being held 24 hours earlier.
Having gone from October to December with remarkably little disruption, there are now serious questions about the rest of the season. It should have resumed today, obviously, but could instead be the end of next month at the earliest.
All games are postponed until February 7, but given the clubs have not played since December 17 there will need to be a minimum of a further fortnight to get the players up to speed for competitive games. The weekend of February 21 is an international window for Scotland, causing further complications and perhaps another seven-day delay.
Even this scenario, however, assumes that SWPL training and games will be allowed to resume at the end of this three-week period. Given the havoc being wreaked by the pandemic, that’s very far from being a given.
If there is a sliver of light it is that Scottish Women’s Football, and the clubs, agreed last year that the leagues can be called if two rounds of fixtures – and not the scheduled three – are completed. Even if football does not resume until the end of March there would still be time to play seven more games in SWPL1, and eight in the second tier.
Scotland has two Champions League places in 2021-22, with UEFA asking national associations to register competing teams by May 31. A spokesperson hinted this could possibly be extended if the pandemic continues to cause unprecedented problems around Europe.
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THERE are few easy decisions to be made during the current crisis, but Monday’s announcement from the Scottish FA board that professional football “beneath the Championship” had been paused was poorly worded. It also begged the question of why two part-time teams in that league were allowed to continue playing, while the more professional Celtic, Glasgow City and Rangers in SWPL1 were not.
That is not to say it was not correct to pause the top two women’s leagues. Many of the SWPL clubs agree, believing it protects players and their families. But for the sake of consistency it would have made more sense to only allow the fully professional men’s Premiership to continue, even if statistically there are more full-time teams in the Championship than SWPL1.
Having been told they could not play, Glasgow City then applied for dispensation to continue training. Given that they were prepared to pay for the mandatory Championship-standard testing it seemed a reasonable request.
That, too, was turned down by the Joint Response Group (JRG), which has no women’s football representation at decision-making level. A source close to the JRG suggested that among other considerations it would give Glasgow City a “sporting advantage” if they were allowed to train – but that was not really an issue as title rivals Rangers and Celtic could also have applied for the dispensation.
City chief executive Laura Montgomery said: “We’re prepared to pay for testing, just for the mental health benefits for our players.
“We’ve just brought players in from other countries. They’ve come here to play football and now we’re telling them they can’t even train with the necessary protocols in place.”
My understanding is that Celtic would also have continued training had permission been granted to City. Rangers declined to comment, but it seems inconceivable they would not have trained also if their two rivals were doing so.
In these circumstances, and with no relegation at the other end, it is hard to see what sporting advantage City would have derived.
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AN interim head coach will be in charge when Scotland travel to Cyprus and host Portugal in Euro qualifying next month, with an announcement likely to be made soon.
As the games are meaningless in terms of reaching the finals, the SFA feel it makes sense in the current climate to wait before making a permanent appointment. World Cup qualifying starts in the autumn.
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APPLICATIONS for the role of Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football closed at noon on Friday. Anyone who declared an interest and has not been invited for an interview by Tuesday will be out of the running, according to the job advertisement.
The post has been vacant since August 2019 when Donald Gillies left for a development job in Colorado. The SFA say the position was not filled earlier because they were waiting for the outcome of the women’s football strategic review – itself overdue by several months, but completed some time ago and expected to be made public soon.