On International Women’s Day, Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) are celebrating the fact that a record 175 sides have entered the 2018 Youth Scottish Cup across three age groups: Under-13s, Under-15s and Under-17s. Currently, the SWF has 474 affiliated teams competing in competition across all levels, with over 6,500 registered players in 2017.
Highlights The Continued Growth Of The Game
Fiona McIntyre, the SWF’s Executive Officer, was ecstatic that so many clubs and girls were taking part in the Youth Cup and commented that this “highlights the continued growth of the game and it’s great to celebrate that on International Women’s Day.”
McIntyre, who represents the SWF on the Scottish FA’s Non-Professional Game Board, added that SWF had improved accessibility this year by reducing the club affiliation fees with important reductions in youth football with much as 50% for Under-13 teams as well as investing £12,000 in “this area”.
She believes that this policy has had a big impact on the number of sides, stating that “we never want price to be the reason a team or a player doesn’t play football, so this is us taking an active step to try and ensure that never happens.”
National Performance Leagues
This weekend will also be the first of the new National Performance Leagues. It would have happened last week, but due to the weather, the games we cancelled. There are new leagues, Under-15s and Under-19s, with the ambition to create a “performance pathway for elite, youth players at club level”.
Robert Watson, the Assistant Manager of Hamilton Academical who have entered the Under-19 league, spoke about his delight of being part of the new Performance League. He commented, “the creation of this League allows young players to start their journey as elite athletes in a professional atmosphere not only within their club but within a professional playing platform that can allow them to grow, learn and succeed as footballers and as people. This can only benefit SWF in future by giving our best youth players the playing and training environment they deserve.”
Ian Dibdin, the Head of Central Girls Football Academy who have entered the Under-15 league, stated that the club fully embraced the “introduction of the National Performance League” and that he believed it would give youth players that opportunity to “challenge themselves against teams of similar ability, in meaningful games.”
He added that “it is imperative that the youth leagues have an elite pathway, to support player development in reaching their full potential at national and international level. The National Performance League concept is a major step in the right direction, in our opinion and we wish all the organisers, teams and players the very best working towards the success of the project.”
A Significant Change
McIntyre admitted that this new competition would be a “significant change” but felt that it would be hugely beneficial. She spoke about how the club’s reaction to the new competitions have been “very positive” and commented that there has been engagement between the clubs and the SWF to make the best competition – but without “compromising the main ethos of the leagues.”
She also said that there will be a continuous review and adaption of the competition throughout the season to “ensure they make the optimum impact on the development journey of the young players participating within these new and exciting competitions.”
The SWF has lots to celebrate on International Women’s Day. Their Board has five females and two males in strategic positions, with their Chair, Vivienne MacLaren representing the SWF on the Women in Sport Advisory Board. Their Legal Director, Anne McKeown, sits on the UEFA Women’s Football Committee and on the Scottish FA Licensing Committee.
They were also able to offer professional contracts for the first time for Scotland’s preparations for the Euros.