THE road to France and the World Cup finals for Scotland’s women’s football team has been garlanded with stirring memories. No matter what happens in tomorrow’s game against England, one of the tournament favourites, they have already engineered a small revolution in this country. Later they will take on Japan and Argentina. Realistically, their chances of progressing from the group will probably hinge on their performances against these two and finishing second. This group of women, though, have made an art form of confounding expectations as they did in securing automatic qualification from a group consisting of two teams ranked higher than them.

In their eight-game qualifying stretch Shelley Kerr’s players encountered several obstacles familiar to those long accustomed to the vicissitudes of our men’s team: sudden twists of luck which seemed destined to deny them and conceding preventable goals against the weaker teams. They also exhibited many traits seemingly alien to the Scotland men’s team in overcoming adverse circumstances and finding a way ultimately to prevail. In doing so they brought a nation out from behind the couch while watching a Scotland team perform.

The road to France for the male Scottish football community has been much less memorable and more than slightly embarrassing. These women have prevailed in spite of our football authorities, not because of them. Oh sure, lately the SFA has come to recognise they have something good on their hands and have begun to put in place basic structures and a measure of finance to help maintain momentum in women’s football. And what momentum. In recent years the number of girls and young women playing organised football has doubled while the deeds of Kim Little, Erin Cuthbert and their captain Rachel Corsie in a dark blue jersey have begun to capture our hearts. They are the real deal.

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The strategic framework that has only recently been laid down in Scotland to build on the success of women’s football has been visible in many other countries for more than two decades. In these places women’s football has become accepted within the mainstream of professional sport and something which talented young girls can aspire to. In Scotland, as matters stand, gifted youngsters can only dream of making this their full-time career if they can catch the eye of English scouts. In Scotland, Celtic FC is the only major football cub which has thus far elected to run and maintain a squad of professional women players.

The pattern of resistance to supporting the women’s game has had a long and wretched history in this country. In 1971 UEFA, European football’s governing body, moved to bring the women’s game under its auspices – a crucial staging post in its development. When the motion was debated at congress only one jurisdiction out of 32 voted against it: the SFA. Scotland’s women played their first international match in 1881, long before many of Scotland’s most storied senior male clubs, including Celtic, were formed. The ability to play football at a professional standard became evident during the First World War when crowds of up to 50,000 regularly attended women’s exhibition matches while male competition was suspended. This nirvana was short-lived. The SFA suppressed it before people started getting ideas above themselves by simply banning clubs from allowing their grounds to be used by women and threatening referees with suspension.

Even now, there is more than a degree of resistance to the idea of covering women’s football seriously in the UK media. Certainly, a host of respected male pundits are being sent to France to cover the women’s World Cup but I doubt if this will result in significant extra space being devoted to women’s football in the sports sections of newspapers or in the television schedules. Yet these are crucial in attracting the sponsorship that will help sustain professionalism.

There remains a residual animosity to the concept of women’s football as mainstream. It follows a depressingly predictable narrative which dictates that women, no matter how skilful, lack the sheer brute strength to propel a football at speed or to remain physically robust for 90 minutes in the modern game. This isn’t sexist; just stupid. It explains why Barcelona can produce players like Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandes and Scotland, er … can’t.

More than 20 years ago when I was an executive at The Scotsman publications we hired a talented female journalist to be the sports editor of Scotland on Sunday. Ginny Clark thus became the first woman to be appointed to this position on a national title. We also hired Moira Gordon as a full-time football reporter and Sue Mott as a writer at large. Indeed the vigour and intensity the redoubtable and gifted Ms Mott deployed to elbow her way into male press boxes she also brought to negotiations over her freelance contract. I understand the Women in Journalism group occasionally conducts seminars on how to secure fee increases; they could do a lot worse than contact Ms Mott. It bears repeating that we hired these women not to tick a gender-inclusive box but because they were all very good.

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This bout of virtue-signalling may seem all progressive and enlightened but some old instincts remained intact. One of my lasting regrets from this time is not having the enterprise to go an extra mile and carve out a significant space in our football section to dedicate to women’s football. More than two decades later, and despite the heroics of our women’s football team, coverage of their weekly exploits remains an after-thought on the football pages of most of Scotland’s newspapers. It’s indefensible, really.

The Scottish Government has signalled that it wants to see more funding of the women’s game. This, though, will be meaningless unless our top football clubs follow Celtic’s lead and employ women on full-time contracts. As one of its conditions of membership the Scottish Premier League should insist that every club must employ at least two full-time, professional women players. As well as playing for the club’s women’s team they would act as coaches and be responsible for outreach work in their communities. They would become visible and accessible sporting role models for young girls in communities that don’t see these very often. Everybody wins.

Full coverage of FIFA Women's World Cup in today's sports section