Scottish FA chief Ian Maxwell to meet SWPL representatives

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Alan Campbell

SOME clarity on how the rest of the season will play out may come when Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell meets representatives of Scottish Women’s Football and the Scottish Building Society SWPL clubs tomorrow.

At the very least there should be an indication of whether the three-week suspension of football is to be extended.

The chances are that it will. As outlined last week, most of the clubs in the top two divisions are now resigned to just two rounds of fixtures being played in 2020-21. The position of the Championship clubs, whose season barely got started, remains uncertain.

Maxwell will also be asked again whether Glasgow City, Celtic and Rangers – and any other interested club – can resume training with the necessary testing protocols in place.

City, so far, have been refused permission, but both they and Rangers have several Scotland players in their squads and the final two Euro qualifiers are due to be played next month.

UEFA, meanwhile, have extended the date for the SFA to register Scotland’s two 2021-22 Champions League teams from May 31 to June 14.

Even if there can be no competitive club football in February and March, that would still leave more than enough time to play the seven SWPL1 games required to complete two rounds of fixtures.

Under this scenario the last date for SWPL1 games would be June 13. For the SWPL2 clubs it would be June 27.

THERE is an argument that if SWPL1 wants to be considered a professional elite league, the eight clubs should have been prepared to resume playing last Sunday had the Joint Response Group given the green light. It is, after all, something part-time men’s Championship clubs Alloa and Arbroath are doing.

That, however, was not the view of Hibernian, who also have many players on part-time contracts. Vice-captain Rachael Boyle was quick to state the three-week suspension was “absolutely the correct decision”.

The longest-serving head coach in the league agrees, with Spartans’ Debbi McCulloch saying: “I know the concerns our players have, because we asked for feedback when we went into Tier 4 lockdown.

“We have players who are undertaking full-time jobs. Some of them are key workers, or have family members who are classed as vulnerable. Everybody felt they were potentially putting themselves and their loved ones at risk [by continuing to play].

“As the head coach at Spartans that weighed heavily on me. Looking back, I’m probably quietly relieved the decision was taken out of our hands – but I also know every team has different circumstances so will feel differently about it.

“There are clubs with players who have just arrived from other countries and are looking to settle in. They’re here to play football and if that is taken away I can understand how challenging that would be.

“I can completely understand Glasgow City’s rationale in asking to continue training with the necessary protocols in place. If they’re able to afford to test, great, but we’re not in a position to do that for any lengthy period of time. We don’t know if this will just be for three weeks.

“I also understand how much football means to people, and remember the feeling of it returning last summer which gave everybody that little bit of normality. This is a human issue at the end of the day.”

WHEN the season does resume, Forfar Farmington will have a new head coach. There has been a high turnover in recent years, with Ryan McConville becoming the latest to leave on Tuesday.

The Northern Irishman did well in his few games, and came agonisingly close to masterminding a win over Celtic in what turned out to be his penultimate match. He had ambitious plans for the club, but these were shredded by the pandemic and its consequences.

Assistant coach Kevin McGreskin will take over until the end of the season, at which point Forfar will probably have to recruit again.

Whoever gets the job in 2021-22 will almost certainly have to contend with Aberdeen, and possibly Dundee United also, being promoted and in the market for the same geographical pool of players.

THE appointment of an interim Scotland head coach looks set to be made this week, given that the squad to face Cyprus and Portugal will have to be announced early next month.

The latter game, due to be played at Easter Road, is the subject of some concern due to the heightened Portuguese travel restrictions.

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