SPFL herald 'bold new era' for Scottish women's game as Celtic prepare for significant change
It’s going to be all change for Celtic FC Women next year, after the Scottish Professional Football League announced that SWPL competition will be under the auspices of the SPFL.
Celtic, current SWPL Cup holders and regular title chasers in the SWPL 1, will be heavily involved. 17 Women’s clubs voted in favour of the changes [SPFL]. From the 22-23 season, there’ll be two divisions, and a new League Cup format.
Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) have been in discussions for months with the SFA and the SPFL. It comes at a great time for the Women’s game, with UEFA increasing expenditure and broadcasters like DAZN providing comprehensive coverage at the elite level.
SPFL Chief Neil Doncaster said [SPFL]: “Everyone at the SPFL is hugely excited by the prospect of working closely with the SWPL clubs to help increase the competitiveness, profile and income of elite women’s football in Scotland.
“I have been struck by the ambition of all clubs involved to drive up standards, take the game to the next level and increase participation across the sport.
“It is clear to see the many benefits that increased professionalism has brought to women’s football across the world. We believe we are well-placed to add significant value to the game in Scotland in both a sporting and commercial sense.”
For the SFA, it’s a key part of their Accelerate the Game initiative [SFA]. Their strategic plan for the development of Women’s Football builds upon recent successes, including World Cup qualification for Scotland and achievements at youth level. Clubs, specifically Celtic and Glasgow City, have boosted the profile of Scottish women’s football through UEFA Champions League qualification.
So what does this mean for Celtic FC Women and the SPFL?
This is all very encouraging.
For one thing, the SWPL is excellently run, but it could use the kind of investment the SPFL can offer. The broadcasting platforms the SPFL have, the attention of the Scottish audience; it’s surely a good thing.
What a time for it, too. Women’s football in Scotland has seen exponential growth over recent years. The BBC are showing games regularly, and Celtic are continuing to invest in the professional women’s team. Bringing in quality players and a charismatic manager have paid off.
That said, has the SPFL necessarily sold itself well over the years? You could argue not. The Cinch deal was hardly a bank-breaker, with £1.6m a year being split between 42 clubs [The Athletic]. Given the significant audience Scottish football has, it’s not ideal.
That, and being swallowed up the SPFL has risks for Celtic and all the other SWPL clubs. Can the same focus and devotion to the women’s game be promised from the offices of Hampden? That’s to be seen.
Still, there are clear advantages to this, namely exposure, share of resources and organisational heft. Can Celtic FC Women prosper in an SPFL set-up?
The answer is surely yes.