Glasgow City chief Laura Montgomery has voiced fears a Covid-19 hangover could cost Scotland a lost generation of young female footballers.
The 14-time Scottish Women’s Premier League champions are preparing to resume action in April after four months in lockdown.
But while the nation’s top female players were ordered into cold storage, Scotland’s male Premiership and Championship clubs were allowed to carry on playing through the winter spike in coronavirus cases.
That decision still rankles with City chief executive Montgomery.
And she is worried the feel-good factor built up around women’s football in the wake of Scotland’s qualification for their first World Cup in 2019 has been allowed to flutter away because Scottish girls have been denied the chance to see their heroes in action.
Montgomery – whose side return to action with a derby clash against at Celtic on April 4 – told the PA news agency: “We’ve gone through a year where young girls have not been able to play football.
“There are loads of young girls who will have simply stopped playing football and might not come back. This will have happened for boys too, I’m not denying that.
“But the difference is boys will still have been able to watch men’s football, they can see their team and still have those role models. It’s about seeing who you want to be.
“But that has been denied to young girls. If they can’t get out to play, can they still watch their heroes on TV? Can they listen about them, read about them? No.
“It just all stopped and the frustrating thing is that the men’s game was too important to stop but ours wasn’t.
“The momentum the women’s game had off the World Cup is probably largely forgotten now.”
Montgomery puts some of the “stagnation” of the women’s game in Scotland down to the fact it took the Scottish Football Association 18 months to appoint a new head of Girls and Women’s Football, after Donald Gillies stepped down in 2019.
But more worrying is the lack of influence the female game has within Hampden’s corridors of powers.
Montgomery said: “All of this stems from the fact that we’re not properly represented in the decision-making body.
“On the SFA board, there is one person representing the non-professional game board (NPGB).
“So that person is representing the whole of women’s football – every single aspect of it – plus the schools game, boys’ youth football, welfare football, the South of Scotland and East of Scotland leagues, para-football, the Juniors, amateur football. The list is massive.
“Do they really go with their women’s football hat on? Probably not.
“I could question why my team exists within the remit of the NPGB when I have a professional team and so do Celtic and Rangers. Hibs have a semi-professional side.
“But this all means we don’t really have a voice.
“And on the Joint Response Group – which is making the decisions around Covid – women’s football has no representation on there either.
“When the game was suspended back in January, that was a decision made by the Scottish FA. Only the men’s Premiership and Championship were allowed to continue.
“I heard a lot of people talk about shutting down the women’s game and saying: ‘Your league isn’t wholly professional’ – well I’m sorry the whole Championship isn’t fully professional. You’ve got part-time teams in there too.
“As a club, we were also refused permission to continue training through lockdown as a professional club and that’s where I struggle a bit.
“If the men’s game is so important for visibility, why isn’t the women’s game?”