THE 2018 Scottish Building Society SWPL season gets underway today and while coaches and players welcome a return to competitive football, they also have serious reservations about the structure of the campaign.

What is supposed to be a summer season starts in early February and ends on November 4. Given the recent weather and the forecast it will require good fortune for there to be no postponements today or next Sunday.

Yet the stretched-out season is not to accommodate a plethora of games. The 16 SWPL clubs each play just 21 in their two leagues, while the maximum any side can play is 30 – and that would require reaching the final of both cup competitions.

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The only reason for such a long season is the summer break. This year the SWPL clubs have no fixtures between June 24 and August 5. They are almost playing two mini-seasons.

Having spoken to a number of head coaches, all are unhappy about the season starting so early and involving such a long break in the middle.

“You’re starting a campaign in the winter,” said Scott Booth at Glasgow City. “If we’re going to have summer football in Scotland let’s try to condense the season a bit more.

“We’ve hardly been able to train pre-season because of the weather. Friendlies have been postponed or abandoned because of the snow. It has been ridiculous.

“On top of that our players only had a four-week break in the winter. Why do we need to have five weeks off in the summer? Two weeks would be enough.”

The good news is that matters may improve in 2019 after the SWF’s promised review. It is also the year when Scotland is hosting the Uefa Under-19 Championship, which in itself is likely to require fixture adjustments.

While Scottish Women’s Football executive officer Fiona McIntyre gave a detailed explanation of why the season is structured as it is, she also suggested why there might be scope for improvement in the future. The long mid-season break has traditionally been to accommodate player holidays. Also taken into consideration are referees’ availability (for the same reason), and potential difficulties in hiring grass pitches during the summer ground maintenance period.

These reasons are starting to look threadbare. The top clubs are expected to perform to professional levels, so the holiday issue is less relevant. Also, most play on artificial surfaces, not grass, and the referee probably doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either.

A return to a more compact season, starting in early March and ending in late October with no prolonged break in the middle, is surely the desired outcome of the review.

ALTHOUGH Scott Booth, understandably, sees it differently, the view of most people watching the winter movement of players is that Hibernian must be favourites to win their first Scottish title since 2007.

The Edinburgh club have kept last season’s squad intact while adding Shannon McGregor from Aberdeen, Jamie-Lee Napier from Celtic and Kirsten Reilly from Stirling University. Lizzie Arrnot is also expected to be back playing next month following almost a year out with an ACL injury.

The biggest problem facing head coach Kevin Milne and his new assistant Grant Scott is likely to be keeping all 22 players happy. He is, however, anticipating losing some of them in the summer when English clubs will be recruiting for the 2018-19 season.

Glasgow City, by contrast, have lost seven players and will be running a tight ship boosted by the signings of Kirsty Howat, Donna Paterson and Maddie Hill. The first two are known quantities who will add value, leaving Hill, a former British Universities captain who has played for Sunderland and Verona, to fit in at centre half or midfield.

With Lauren McMurchie due to be the eighth player to leave at the end of next month, when she heads for Dubai, Booth has a big task on his hands if City are to win a record 12th successive title.

Celtic's mission – again – is to close the gap on the top two. David Haley's side had a mid-season slump last year and finished the campaign a very disappointing 19 points behind second-placed Hibs. They are expected to make a signing from outwith Scotland this week to add to the five already brought in.

Spartans and Stirling University both have new head coaches and the outlook seems better for Paul Greig at the former than Barry Rodgers at the latter. Stirling and relegated Aberdeen look to be the clubs most damaged by the winter movement of players.

IT will be Rangers Women – with aspirations for a top five finish – and not Rangers Ladies this season. As predicted here in December they are the high profile club which has decided to move with the times. That leaves Hibernian the only club in the top division still calling themselves Ladies.

FINALLY, good luck to Eddie Wolecki Black on his return to front-line coaching with SWPL2 Motherwell at Rugby Park today. His recovery from a life-threatening stroke 23 months ago has been remarkable - and given his signings he must fancy yet another league title on his CV come the end of the season.