The 2016 Scottish Women’s Premier League (SWPL) season officially kicked off on the 28th February 2016. And yet, seven weeks later, the majority of SWPl 1 clubs have only played three league games, and if they are lucky, two League Cup matches.
This structure has seen Glasgow City’s Head Coach Scott Booth complain in an article written by Alan Campbell, published in The National. Booth said:
The players are often away for 10 days, not three or four, which makes training difficult. You lose the momentum you’ve tried to build. I think it’s totally wrong. I don’t know what the answer is but there must be a better way of doing it than the way we’re doing it now.
Now, there are two questions to ask. Does he have a point, and if yes, what can be done about it?
Booth is most likely correct. If you ran a supercomputer to analyse football reports written since a journalist decided it would be a good idea, then one of the keywords you would discover is momentum. Clubs want to build up momentum because if they pick up a win, and then another and then another, they can often keep it going. The side goes into each match with more confidence, and that is always a good thing. This is especially important if the club is hunting for a title, or battling against relegation.
And then add to the equation that this is the start of the season, with new players having to fit into new surroundings and getting to know their team-mates – this makes it more important to play Sunday after Sunday.
So, what can be done about it?
There are two problems that have led to a stop-start nature to the season: the League Cup and the International Calendar. Let’s look at International Football first.
There was no game on the 6th March (apart from League Cup First Round games that were rearranged due to weather) because Scotland was playing Spain in a friendly. And there were no games between the 3rd and 10th April because of Scotland U19 games and the Scotland-Slovenia match.
And, if you look at the UEFA Euro Women’s 2017 Qualifiers, the schedule is staggered. For example, at the turn of the year, England had played two qualifiers out of eight, whilst Scotland had played four. UEFA should introduce an organised international schedule where certain weekends are dedicated to international football. And they should also try and reduce the disruption for the Under 17 and Under 19 internationals, by playing these on or around the same weekend. When so many of the SWPL clubs have players who are eligible to these youth international squads, games have to be postponed. If you looked at the fixtures, there was meant to be four SWPL 1 matches played on the 3rd April.
Now, the League Cup is something the SWPL can control. You want to get it finished by the end of May, due to the Scottish Women’s Cup matches where the SWPL clubs enter in the Second Round in June.
With the Final to be held on Wednesday 15th June 2016, they’ve scheduled the Semi-Finals for the 8th May. By the very definition, Semi-Finals have four teams so should there be a free weekend for teams not involved? Could the season start after the first international break (13th March) with the League Cup? Did the Quarter-Finals have to be played so soon on the 27th March?
These are all legitimate questions that with many things, the club have to have a large say in how this can be changed. There is one thing that stands out. Is it the best thing to have a major final on a Wednesday? And just three days after a Scottish Cup Second Round tie?
The new SWPL format was bound to bring up issues, and this is one that can be fixed possibly with a rescheduling of the League Cup. But obviously, some of the major problems have come from the scheduling of UEFA matches.
Do you think the SWPL Cup could be reformated or rescheduled to allow a smoother start to the season? Or is the problem always going to be down to the international calendar? Let us know b commenting below.