WHILE every club has had its aspirations punctured by the pandemic, the timing couldn't have been worse for those who had decided to move on to a professional footing.

So, where does that leave Rangers? While Glasgow City, Celtic and Hibernian also have players on paid contracts, almost the entire Rangers squad comes into that category.

Throw in the backroom staff, and a realistic estimate of the women's team's wage bill must be around £500,000 per annum. Inevitably, then, the departure of joint head coach Gregory Vignal on Wednesday raised fears that the club might be wavering on its commitment.

Fortunately for all concerned, the club's explanation that the likeable Frenchman's one year contract had come to an end, and that it was a mutual decision not to extend it, appears to be watertight. Malky Thomson, who was latterly brought in to share the duties with Vignal, is a much more experienced coach and has worked at high levels in men's football.

Earlier this year, before the pandemic had appeared on the radar, I spoke with James Bisgrove, who is Rangers' Commercial and Marketing Director. He could not have been more enthusiastic about the club's backing of the women's team.

Bisgrove pointed out the entire board was behind the project, and cited the team's principal partner arrangement with DCP Capital, a company owned by Rangers director Julian Wolhardt. Their name is on the strip.

“From the club's perspective, and more specifically from a commercial and marketing perspective, we've taken note of the Women's World Cup and also the Women's Super League in England,” Bisgrove said. "The WSL has been able to build that platform with sponsors like Barclays, and media rights with BT Sport.

“There's a clear recognition that the Scottish league is a long way behind in terms of its profile and audience, but at the same time we see a genuine potential. More and more of the brands and businesses we talk to want to show a recognition for diversity and women in sport.”

Given the above, might Rangers at some point be interested in applying to join the WSL? It's something Glasgow City looked at in the past and may have crossed Celtic's mind also.

“There would certainly be some quick wins in jumping ship and going into a model that is already a few years ahead,” Bisgrove confirmed, “but for now we want to play our part in building the game in Scotland.

“Rangers and Celtic have a role to play in that. Glasgow City have obviously set the benchmark for a number of years. We want to come to the party as well in terms of having players who are role models to young girls and growing the audience.”

Bisgrove also stated that 75 per cent of the season ticket holders at Ibrox are men. “If we attract a higher percentage of females through a connection to the women's team that's only going to serve us well in terms of all the other commercial opportunities – selling tickets, soccer schools, shirt sales, etc,” he pointed out.

“Backing a professional women's team is for long term gain. I would be very surprised, given the support and level of commitment from the board, if we were to step back from that – although with any investment results need to follow on the field.”

While the arrival of the pandemic has unquestionably brought a material change in circumstances, the mood music coming from Rangers suggests the commitment remains intact. The club has been linked with Lizzie Arnot, who has left Manchester United, but while that was not confirmed it is understood that positive announcements are very much in the pipeline.

And another thing 

CONGRATULATIONS to Australia and New Zealand, who beat off the challenge of Columbia to land the 2023 World Cup.

Having had the privilege of covering the 2000 Sydney Olympics, I can state confidently that the Australians will be wonderful hosts. And it is also pleasing that a small progressive nation like New Zealand can land a global tournament of this magnitude.

What is baffling is why all nine Uefa delegates on the Fifa council voted for Colombia, giving that nation 13 votes from an available 35. Fifa's evaluation report had clearly identified Australia/New Zealand as the best of the two bids.

FA chairman Greg Clarke was among those who voted for a country whose national association was criticised last year for treating its players like second class citizens. Clarke also refused to speak to NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The FA is not popular in international football circles. Sometimes it's easy to see why.