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Sophie Goodwin: Aberdeen Women going semi-professional has created a better future for women and girl’s football in the north and north-east

The five Aberdeen players on semi-pro contracts will have more mandatory sessions to attend next season.
The five Aberdeen players on semi-pro contracts will have more mandatory sessions to attend next season.

‘If you see it, you can be it’ was the first thing which sprung to mind on Friday when Aberdeen Women announced they’re moving towards semi-professional status.

The club have put their first ever female players on paid contracts, with Bayley Hutchison, Eva Thomson, Eilidh Shore, Jess Broadrick and Francesca Ogilvie now tied to the club until 2024.

It’s a significant milestone which will benefit not just the club, but will have a big impact on the development of women and girl’s football in the north and north-east.

I know first hand what it’s like to have a dream that people think is unreasonable just because you’re a girl.

During my first English lesson at high school, we were asked to tell the class what our hopes and dreams were for when we left school.

“I want to play for Scotland,” was my response.

It was a naïve answer. I didn’t think it at the time, but I was never going to be good enough to play for Scotland, which my zero caps prove.

But I distinctly remember the boys in my class laughing as if I had announced that I wanted to go to the moon.

I knew we had a national team, having met a couple of players who had come along to a school tournament the year before, but most people, even the girls, in my class probably didn’t know.

And back then, I admit even I didn’t know that women could be professional footballers.

Inspiring the next generation

I don’t know how many Scottish players were professional back then in 2010, but I know things have improved, and thankfully there are much better options for young girls who might want a career in football.

And for north and north-east girls they won’t have to look for a move down south to get their chance now that paid women’s football is becoming option in Aberdeen.

Within minutes of Aberdeen announcing the news, a parent of a young girl replied to the tweet with: “Right, time to get my five year old in training.”

Dreams of playing at Pittodrie? Dreams of playing in front of thousands of fans? Dreams of a career playing the beautiful game?

All of these things which would have once been pipe dreams have become a reality this season.

Nearly 2,000 supporters cheered on Aberdeen Women in the historic match against Rangers at Pittodrie.

In the north and north-east, as of February 2022, there are 1,298 registered female footballers across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, the Highlands, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

The Dons moving to become semi-professional will help every single one of those players in some shape or form.

Whether that’s helping them realise professional football isn’t some outlandish dream, but one they can actually achieve quite close to home, or it motivates newcomers to take up the sport. An increased uptake would help boost funding and investment in the long run, further benefitting those who already play.

The ‘Famous Five’

The five players who have secured contracts will forever be etched in the history as the first women who were paid to play for Aberdeen, with Dons skipper Kelly Forrest branding them the ‘Famous Five’.

Hutchison, Thomson, Shore, Broadrick and Ogilvie are some of the most promising young talents at the club, and the hope will be they progress even more now they have a secure future at the club – with the part-time deals giving them more time to work on their games.

But they could not have reached this milestone if it hadn’t been for the team’s overall success throughout the Dons first season back in the top-flight, as they proved they’re a worthy investment.

With players going semi-professional and the club committing to increased financial backing, it will drive a higher standard for the entire team, as the Dons look to compete with the top-three in SWPL 1.

It’s also another step in the right direction for women’s football as Aberdeen will be one of seven teams in Scotland to have female players on paid semi-professional or professional contracts.

As clubs invest in their women’s teams, it will create a better standard of competitive football in the league, which will be run by SPFL from next season, as players can make use of more time, better resources and facilities.

It’s been a three-year journey to get Aberdeen Women to this point, and I’d hope that within the next three years we’ll be talking about the team’s players becoming full-time professionals.

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