In just 26 days, the Scottish women’s football team will make history. On July 19, the national team will make their first ever appearance in a major tournament when Anna Signeul and her charges play their opening game at Euro 2017 against, of all teams, England. Things, you would have thought, could not be better.

But instead of everything being entirely rosy in the lead-up to the Euros, the women’s team are embroiled in an unedifying and distracting spat with the Scottish Football Association. The gist of the problem is that the women’s team are making certain demands and the SFA are refusing to meet them. A stand-off has developed, with the players' reaction to the SFA’s intransigence being that they have imposed a media black-out. The players are going about their playing duties but are doing nothing over and above what they do on the pitch.

This is a desperate state of affairs. The significance and importance of the national team’s qualification for Euro 2107 cannot be overstated. Women’s football in this country has been gradually growing in profile and stature in recent years but the national team appearing in its first major championship could increase the game’s standing ten-fold in one fell swoop. The players know this; every single female player I’ve spoken to since the team secured qualification has enthused profusely about the impact this summer could have on the popularity and the reach of the women’s game in this country and, without exception, they have been incredibly accommodating to any requests for interviews.

They know how important media coverage is if the game is to expand and every player I have dealt with accepts their responsibility with this, so a lack of publicity for the team and the players in the lead-up to the championships could be hugely damaging.

And this is why their media blackout is so significant. The players obviously feel that the situation with the SFA is so serious that they must take drastic action and withdrawing all co-operation is the vehicle they are using to get their point across. The players have not stated publicly what they are asking for but media reports have suggested that some of their demands are financial, while others are to do with respect.

There are some who will say that asking for money to play for one’s country is ridiculous and certainly, the pride in representing Scotland should be payment enough. While I can’t be certain, I cannot believe that the players are asking for thousands of pounds in appearance fees. Currently, neither the men’s nor the women’s team receive appearance fees for being on national duty but comparing the two teams is futile and dangerous. Every player in the men’s national team is wealthy, if not rich. The women, in contrast, are not particularly well off. There will be some of the female players, such as Jen Beattie, Jane Ross and Emma Mitchell who play in England who earn decent money from the game but many of the other players have, for years, been forced to combine playing and training with a full-time job.

Sources inside the camp have hinted that the team’s grievance is less about money and more about respect, though. This is nothing short of disgraceful that the national governing body of our national game is not affording the women’s team the respect they feel they deserve.

What is so sad though, is that while this is a shocking state of affairs, it comes as little surprise to me. The SFA still, in 2017, do not have a woman on their board. Male, pale and stale perfectly describes those running our national game. That there are people in the SFA who, for whatever reason, are digging their heels in and are offering resistance against the women’s teams demands for fair treatment is nothing short of embarrassing. The organisation may dispute that it’s sexist, but it’s doing a pretty good job of fooling people into thinking it is.

One point I disagree with the women on is that they haven’t gone public with their demands. By going public, as the Irish women’s team did in their dispute with the FAI earlier this year, the women would almost certainly have the weight of public support behind them. After all, it is highly unlikely that the women are asking for anything unreasonable and by publicising their specific demands, it would highlight quite how unreasonable the SFA are being.

The team announcement for the squad for the Euros was due last Tuesday but it was put back a week until this Tuesday in the hope that a solution can be found by then. Hopefully, for everyone’s sake, an agreement is reached because if this stand-off continues, no one wins. But my advice to the players, for what it’s worth, is stick to your guns. Continue to fight for the respect that you deserve. Continue to draw attention to the SFA’s poor treatment of the women’s team.

If the players back down, they are not only stopping fighting for themselves, they are stopping fighting for every female player that will follow in their footsteps. Equality for women will not be achieved by being nice and accommodating and compliable. And if the players’ actions embarrass the SFA, so be it – they shouldn’t stop until they’ve got the respect they feel they deserve.

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