Huge amount of planning for new SPFL women’s competitions needed – Alan Campbell

A HUGE amount of planning is required ahead of next season’s new SPFL women’s competitions. It is more or less accepted that there will be a top league of twelve teams and a second tier of eight.

Fiona McIntyre, who has been seconded from her role as head of women’s and women’s football at the Scottish FA, has a lot to do as interim chief executive of the new leagues and the League Cup. The temporary appointment makes sense given McIntyre’s previous experience in Scottish women’s football.

SWPL clubs have seven representatives on the task force set up to oversee what is essentially setting up a new corporate and competition structure from scratch. Aberdeen, Celtic, Glasgow City, Spartans and Rangers provide SWPL 1 personnel, while in SWPL 2 it is Boroughmuir Thistle and Kilmarnock. Five of the seven are women.

Four senior SPFL executives, including chief executive Neil Doncaster, are also involved in the process. The intention is to kick off with much improved sponsorship and broadcast deals.

Later there will be an election for five club representatives to join two non-executive directors on the board of the new company. A permanent general manager will be appointed, along with at least two other full-time employees.

On the player side, a 12-8 structure would mean a reprieve for the team finishing bottom of the SWPL 1 this season. As it stands, it’s Hamilton Accies, who are eight points behind second-bottom Hearts with games short.

Two teams would automatically be promoted. Dundee Utd are already as good as they come on the line, having won 15 of their 17 games and drawn the other two, while second place lies between Glasgow Women, Boroughmuir and Kilmarnock.

Three Championship clubs will be promoted to SWPL 2. The winners of the North and South divisions move up automatically, and there will be a play-off between the runners-up of the two to decide the third promotion.

GLASGOW City’s hopes of winning a record 15 consecutive SWPL 1 titles will effectively vanish if they drop points against Celtic at Petershill Park today. Likewise, if Celtic do not win, their chances of securing Scotland’s second place in the Champions League next season will be extinguished.

After succumbing obediently to Celtic in the League Cup final in December, City lost 2-0 when the sides met in the league last month. More of the same will be demanded from Eileen Gleeson’s side this afternoon otherwise Rangers, who have dropped just one point all season and are in Hamilton today, look set to win their first-ever title Scottish.

Their previous best result was in 2014 when they finished second, and it’s interesting to look back to see how much that has changed in less than eight years. It was above all a summer season, with the first round of matches not being played until mid-March.

Twelve teams were in SWPL 1 and geographically this was far more representative of Scotland than the overwhelmingly Central Belt league of that season. Aberdeen, Buchan, Forfar Farmington and Inverness City were all participants, as was, in what appears to be a completely different time, Hutchison Vale and Queen’s Park.

The teams met once before splitting into the top six and bottom six playing each other twice more. Glasgow City won their eighth consecutive title, while also preparing for a Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain the following March.

Eddie Wolecki Black’s side finished 17 points ahead of Rangers and also Hibernian, who finished third on goal difference. Queen’s Park and Buchan were relegated.

The Scotland Under-17 side played their first competitive game since October 2019 on Tuesday. They beat North Macedonia 9-0 and followed that up with a 6-0 win over hosts Albania three days later.

The last game is against Azerbaijan tomorrow, and will be another opportunity to shake up the goals against the weakest nation in the group. The reward, however, will not be a step towards May’s final in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Euro Under-17s (and Under-19s) have moved to a Nations League-style format and Pauline MacDonald’s side are contesting a League B group. They landed there after being relegated from the League A under unfortunate circumstances – they were unable to travel to the Netherlands in September for all three group games due to positive Covid tests within the squad.

A win tomorrow will see Scotland promoted to League A for the next tournament. The current squad look to be one of the most promising in recent years, but their potential cannot be realistically assessed until they face Europe’s strongest nations later this year.

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