Is Women’s Football on the rise in Scotland?

In this current society the gap between the women’s game and the men’s game is too far apart with women’s football largely looked down upon and laughed at.

Scottish Women in Sport (SWiS) an organisation set up with a goal of having Scottish females of all ages, abilities and ethnicities participating in sport and having their achievements promoted and celebrated.

Maureen McGonigle from SWiS said:

“It is important that young women are subjected to all types of strong role models and sport is a perfect example.  To encourage more young girls to participate in sport they must see images of women and girls having fun and enjoying sport.  Clearly the quote ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ is particularly relevant here”.

When asked on the impact the rise will have on society Maureen said:

“Creating a more gender balanced society will be one of the main benefits that will come out of the rise in awareness.  Also, the steady increase in coverage of women in sport and their achievements will assist in the change of perception.  Also, it will help create the understanding the women can achieve in every area of society”.

Robert Watson the club secretary and assistant manager of Hamilton Academical WFC said:

“I firmly believe that taking part in any sport is essential. Aside from the physical and mental well-being, some of the best experiences and friends I have ever had and made were through sport. The drop off of girls playing sport after turning 17 is enormous and as a country we must find ways of keeping interest and reducing that drop off rate”.

Watson on the gap between the men’s and women’s game:

“In monetary terms, it’s still miles off and if anything, the gap is growing. Anyone who realistically thinks a full-time professional women’s league will happen in the next 20 years in Scotland is living in a fantasy land sadly. Unless there is significant, and I am talking 6 figure investments per club annually, it’s not going to happen. Many clubs in Scotland can barely sustain themselves or just break even at Men’s level. We can’t just expect our game to fall back on the men’s game and say “give us enough money so we can run”. Do I think men’s football can give more? Yes, but we have to consider the impact on men’s clubs as well”.

When asked what his club is doing to increase the growth he said:

“We offer football from Under 9s up to an Elite 1st Team at Hamilton Academical. We consider age groups 9-15 as our Academy where football is about enjoyment and being involved. We are one of the biggest in the country and have produced several international footballers through this system. A couple of our coaches also run a soccer academy which is a turn up and play for 5-9 years olds. There is no commitment to joining and it is great for taster sessions and allows children to see how they like football before committing fully to anything.

The leading factors contributing to the rise in Scotland and the UK in recent years have been due to the success of both the London Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games which both showcased women’s sports on a global scale and produced role models such as Boxer, Nicola Adams and track and field star Jessica Ennis who have both been world champions in their sport.

In even more recent times, there has been success in the FIFA women’s world cup with the event seeing by over one billion viewers.

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and former Scotland Women’s manager, Shelly Kerr

Robert Watson on new role models said:

“I think we need to make sport cheaper and more affordable for young athletes, we need to take care of those athletes better and we need to encourage women to keep playing and try sport. A player might not be a top footballer but they might be a top netball player or rower for example. We have had the emergence of a “local hero” as well here in Scotland in Erin Cuthbert for football. She’s a fantastic role model and I can assure you how she comes across in interviews is how she is in real life. Before that it was Andy Murray whose success saw a huge impact on people taking up tennis. As a nation we have always loved our sporting heroes they play a huge part in inspiring girls taking their first steps into playing a sport”.

A rise in women’s sports could help with one of the UK’s ever-growing problems, obesity. In 2018, 67% of adult males and 60% of adult females were overweight resulting in over 540,000 deaths.

Maureen McGonigle said:

“There is no doubt that the more active people are the less likely we are to have an obesity crisis.  Many sports are now actively creating programs to get more women active and developing an ‘introduction’ into their sport through some creative thinking, that will help to break down the barriers that many women and girls perceive are associated with sports participation”.

Sport does not only help with weight loss and tackling the obesity problems in the country. Sport also has a major effect on helping with mental health issues which is another subject area that has been highly discussed about in recent times with exercising having the ability to improve moods, reduce stress and anxiety also alleviating low self-esteem.

Robert Wilson added:

“We have to be better at educating in schools, educating parents who maybe didn’t learn those skills in school and providing good examples. I think we need to really sell that sport and exercise is something that is ultimately fun and an outlet for emotions. The upside of it is all these other benefits. I remember a smoking campaign when I was younger that laid bare exactly what smoking does to people in graphic detail. Maybe we need to be that matter of fact about things about the pressure obesity is putting on our NHS and what it does to a person.

In this decade, the growth of women’s sports has been bigger than ever before however the gap is still extremely noticeable between the men and women’s and the hard work and growth must continue for the next decade and beyond.

by Michael McDermott

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