From next season the top two leagues of Scottish women’s football in Scotland will be run by the SPFL, but what does that mean for Aberdeen Women?
Sixth of 10 sides in the SWPL 1, Aberdeen were clearly in favour of the move to the SPFL, as Zoe Ogilvie, a non-executive director at the club, tweeted it was “a very welcome development which Aberdeen FC and Aberdeen Women supported.”
But we know very little about what the future might look like for teams like the Dons as part of the SPFL at this point.
It’s undeniable there needs to be more money injected into the women’s game and I do think that the SPFL have the resources to provide the women’s game with better commercial and broadcast partners than Scottish Women’s Football, who currently run the top two tiers.
And you only have to look south of the border to the FAWSL to see how successful a period of restructuring and development at the top of the women’s domestic game can be.
However, for the SPFL switch to be a success, clubs like Aberdeen Women will have to make some big decisions.
Will SPFL move see Dons approach to women’s team change?
Fiona McIntyre, the Scottish FA’s Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football, said being part of the SPFL would provide clubs like Aberdeen with “some comfort and security” of increased revenue they can then invest into the club how they best please.
— Zoe Ogilvie (@PRZoeO) February 15, 2022
My hope would be the move acts as a catalyst for the Dons to start putting players on semi-professional contracts from next season.
After all, the point of moving to the SPFL was to progress the women’s game, and how can that be done if clubs are stagnant in their own ambitions?
But I don’t believe the Dons are unambitious.
Their first season back in SWPL 1 was always going to be a case of assessing how they got on in the top flight before any decisions on their future were made. It is also important to remember we are still emerging from the Covid pandemic, something which was a hammer blow to football club revenues.
The fact Aberdeen FC were supportive of the move to the SPFL suggests the club is already thinking about what’s required to take their women’s side to the next level in the season ahead.
Confirmation of the transition to the SPFL might have sped up the process, which can only be a good thing for all involved at Aberdeen Women.
Invest, invest, invest
It’s vital sides like the Dons are proactive in their investment, as one of my fears with the SPFL shift is the SWPL’s most established sides, like Glasgow City, Rangers and Celtic, will benefit most financially and accelerate further ahead of the rest of the pack.
There is already a gulf between the top three or four sides and the rest of the league which affects results on the pitch, albeit this season has been an improvement on years past.
The proof in the pudding of the move to the SPFL will be the way in which extra money generated by the two divisions is invested back into the clubs.
We’ve seen the difference investment can make – in only two seasons, Rangers have gone from a non-threatening mid-table team to now being SWPL 1 favourites this season, having gone fully professional last year.
Better investment can only improve the quality on the pitch, with teams having better resources and facilities at their disposal to train more often at a higher level.
The Dons already have two experienced coaches in Emma Hunter and Gavin Beith, but imagine what they could do with more time and money available to them.
The clubs who are slow to match their rivals risk lagging behind the progress that is sure to be made in years to come.
For Aberdeen, who have a very young side, the move to go semi-pro or professional, might keep their most promising players in the north-east for longer – an historic problem – or even attract more players from afar to the Granite City.
It does feel like a new era of women’s football in Scotland, and like the other clubs, Aberdeen Women must make the most of this opportunity.
It’ll take time, but if clubs and the SPFL play their cards right, Scotland could become a real force in the women’s game.