At the age of 30, the Celtic and Scotland captain is more head girl than shop steward; she is loyal, sticks to the rules, and makes a point of being a role model for her team-mates.
So when, last week, in a nondescript hotel in the Madrid suburb of Las Matas, Fay made a heartfelt plea for the Scottish Football Association to give semi-professional contracts to Scotland squad players, it was not an ill-judged outburst. Coloured by deep disappointment – the Scots had just been eliminated from Euro 2013 by Spain in crushing circumstances – but not bitter or melodramatic. Merely a reality check for the SFA.
In measured tones, the goalkeeper talked about her working week. Gym sessions at 7am, followed by employment as a partnership manager with sportscotland in Glasgow, rounded off by five evening training sessions with her club. Home around 11pm. Saturdays off, Celtic matches on Sunday. "Our last game is this weekend," she points out. "After that I think I'll collapse. It's not just the working and the training. It's all the driving in between, the stress of fitting everything in and never having a social life."
Fay had to ask sportscotland to drop her working week down to four days. They agreed, but Fay, who first played for Scotland at the age of 16 and won her 150th cap against Spain, is effectively losing money to be able to play for her country. Another squad player, full-back Emma Fernon, has fared worse. She has lost three jobs because her employers would not give her time off to travel with Scotland and Glasgow City.
Even last week, before the biggest match in the history of the side, other employers had to be cajoled into releasing players. One, Celtic midfielder Megan Sneddon, is a postal worker for the Royal Mail in East Kilbride. While most of her team-mates at least have office jobs, she spends her days delivering letters before reporting for training every weekday night in Glasgow.
It is hardly ideal preparation for European Championships or World Cups, but does any of this matter, other than to the players? After all, they do it for a reason: they love playing football and playing for Scotland. None of this lot will text the team administrator stating they don't want to play and, when asked if the players wanted a reward if they qualified for the Euro finals, midfielder Jo Love regarded the notion as absurd.
So when Fay asks for semi-professional contracts, money is not the motivation. What the players can no longer accept is they're not on a level playing field. As women's football explodes, they are increasingly facing teams of professionals from other countries. Some are part-time, some full time; but what all have in common is that they are not working 40-hour weeks. As anybody with a passing knowledge of sports science knows, the correct balance of work and rest is a requisite for elite athletes. Too bad, then, if you play for Scotland.
Shona Robison, the Sports Minister, has said she would welcome the introduction of part-time contracts. Not for the first time, it may take external influences for the situation to change.
To be fair to Stewart Regan, the chief executive, and Campbell Ogilvie, the president, they are supportive of the sport and made Hampden available for the first leg of the Euro play-off against Spain. Both can see the bigger picture, but their vision is not universally shared at an organisation where every position of influence is held by a man.
"Since I arrived as chief executive I have been a huge advocate of women's football in Scotland," said Regan yesterday. "Indeed, the Scottish FA – with the support of sportscotland, Cashback for Communities, and UEFA – invests in excess of £1m per year in the women's game."
It is not enough, though, and there is a bigger picture of course – and the reason why this issue matters to more than just the players – is that Scotland's status in world football is judged by how the national teams perform in World Cups and European Championships. In this regard, it is pertinent to quote from the SFA document Scotland United: A 20-20 Vision.
While this statement of intent, published 16 months ago, is, admittedly, looking increasingly fantastical, it asserts: "The immediate target is qualification for Uefa Euro 2012 and the Uefa Women's Euro 2013 campaigns. By 2015, both squads should be qualifying for the World Cup finals."
When Spain scored in the 122nd minute of an absorbing match in Madrid last Wednesday, the second part of the dual European target went down in flames. By common consent, the men's attempt to qualify for Brazil in 2014 is already doomed. That leaves the women's World Cup in Canada a year later, when the SFA expect a team of full-time workers and students to be one of the eight European qualifiers.
Consider this failure at Hampden to confront reality with what is happening south of the border. In May 2009, the Football Association announced it was awarding central contracts to 17 England players. Each was given an annual salary of £16,000. They were also allowed to take part-time jobs, up to a maximum of 24 hours a week, provided these positions did not compromise their football commitments. This is what Fay has asked the SFA to do in Scotland.
That scheme is costing the FA £1.28m over its initial four-year period, or slightly more than £300,000 a year. England qualified for Euro 2013 by topping a group which included Netherlands, and their games are screened by the BBC in front of a growing audience.
In addition, the FA announced the formation of a Women's Super League in 2010 and it began as an eight-club franchise last year. It has a broadcast partner in ESPN. Last Wednesday, as the Scotland women prepared for their game against Spain, the FA unveiled its latest women's football initiative. A further £3.5m will be invested from 2014 to 2018 to deliver an elite performance unit and expand the WSL to a second tier of eight clubs. The scale of growth at grassroots level is also astonishing: some 253,000 women and girls play regularly and it is the fourth biggest team sport in England behind men's football, rugby and cricket. In Scotland there are just 4400 registered players. The Scottish Women's Premier League is under-funded and uncompetitive.
Regan claimed yesterday, though, that his hands are tied.
"While unfair comparisons are made with England, it is worth noting that the Women's Super League is underpinned by a broadcast deal, sponsorship and gate receipts. This, in turn, subsidises the central contracts. We are committed to ongoing improvement but in a tough economic climate for the whole of the game, there also needs to be a realistic approach to the evolution of women's football."
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