Before the women’s game gets its season up and running, there is already some disappointing news in the north-east.
The announcement on Thursday Cove Rangers have disposed of their women’s team was very disheartening.
The statement from the club tried to suggest the decision was a positive step, as the side have now amalgamated with renowned local youth club, Westdyke. While Westdyke have been one of Aberdeen’s most fruitful youth outfits for many years, developing a host of top players in the boys’ and, latterly, the girls’ game, the club has primarily operated for the purposes of providing a great framework at age-group level and this is where it has always thrived.
With my personal interest in the development of the game back home, I do hope they can now become a success story at senior level and it would be great to see the side do very well.
Having more than one competitive senior women’s team is important if the game wants to continue to grow in the north. For this to happen, it is also important clubs with a women’s or girls’ program are fully invested in them. There is no longer scope for clubs to go through motions or run women’s or girls’ programmes as a token gesture.
For Westdyke, I hope this will be their commitment. Not just a verbal one, but one reinforced by efforts to build a league-winning side through the right strategies.
On that note, for a currently successful north-east club like Cove Rangers to disband their women’s program seems regressive.
With the club’s resources, they had the potential to win the North Championship title this year, and follow in the footsteps of Aberdeen FC Women in promotion to SWPL 2 – an achievement which naturally would have also come with increased commitments. Maybe this was off-putting for the board at Cove, as having a successful side would then come with too much hassle for them.
Naturally, the progressions through the tiers of league football come with both added demands and the potential of earning even more success. Bearing in mind all the current demands of the upper tiers would be easily met by Cove’s current resources and facilities, it seems hard to understand their change of heart, other than that they didn’t fancy it any more.
For Westdyke, there will be inherent challenges, but they will already have a core group of players which will now be supplemented by the official confirmation of the merger. Cove head coach Steve Robb will also move into a similar coaching role with the new team.
Inevitably, the future of the Scottish game as a whole is currently very uncertain and the women’s game is expecting some damage. Cove’s decision is the first blow, and whether it’s related to the pandemic or simply comes in a timely fashion, remains unknown.
A lot of national associations could learn from English FA
A number of national football associations could learn a thing or two from the FA.
Last week saw the return of international action across the women’s game and, while some countries had their fixtures further pushed back, due to extenuating circumstances as a result of the impacts Covid-19 has had, other sides returned to Euro qualification.
For England, they will host EURO 2021 in Summer 2022 and as such have automatically qualified for the major tournament. With the rest of Europe currently playing catch-up with their fixture list and those countries further afield being restricted with travel implications, the opportunity for England to make use of the window asked for some imagination.
They opted for a training camp, which at first glance looked like it would fill the purpose of allowing Phil Neville to take a look at some of his younger and less experienced players a little more closely. The 30-player squad had most of the usual names, alongside a list of some new and younger faces.
Through the week, the FA did their best to promote an “international” fixture of their own, which saw England’s home and abroad-based players compete against each other in an 11v11 training match at St George’s Park, with full kits, team photos and all the usual fanfare.
The game was shown on live stream and was widely credited as a success by fans and several media outlets. The FA have widely been known to provide great support for their women’s players and have an active commercial department which generates significant income for the programme by utilising opportunities as a result of the players’ continually growing value.
Australia ‘mishap’ reveals battle is ongoing
The Football Federation Australia (FFA) have criticised Nike this week for releasing the new national team kit without offering women’s fit replica shirts until 2022, something which was further condemned publicly by some current players.
The matter was arguably an oversight by Nike, who have since responded by ensuring shirts will be available by the beginning of 2021.
The “mishap” is just another example of the prejudice which still exists and underlying battle for women playing and supporting the game.