AS the strategic review into woman's football enters its penultimate month, one of the key issues is the governance of the domestic game. Whatever is recommended will be of crucial importance to the Scottish Building Society SWPL clubs.

There appear to be four options. The first is for the Scottish FA to follow England's lead and take over the top two leagues. The second is for the SPFL to do so. Until the pandemic, and the subsequent rancorous fall-outs, the latter was reckoned to be the most likely outcome.

The third option is for the SWPL to be self-governing. The fourth is for the status quo, which would mean SWF continuing to run both the performance and regional (recreational) arms of the sport.
One person with strong opinions, informed by an inside knowledge of how men's football operates, is former SFA commercial director Kenny Jamieson.

Now a consultant, Jamieson recalled in a recent blog the response of the SPFL representative on the SFA board in 2017 to a proposal from the governing body. The aim was to provide a lasting legacy for the historic Euro qualification by spending £100,000 on 40 girls-only soccer centres.

The SPFL rep was having none of it. He refused to budge even when shown a return-on-investment paper which demonstrated the lifetime value of bringing many thousands of young girls into football.

The reason? Because he maintained it was £100,000 the 42 SPFL clubs could have had instead (giving each the princely sum of £2380).

Fortunately other SFA board members thought differently and the spending was approved. There are now over 120 centres, all of them improving the health and fitness of young girls.

“If the top two women's leagues go into the SPFL there's a massive risk they will become a bit of an afterthought,” Jamieson pointed out. “Culturally the organisation is completely orientated to the top twelve men's teams.

“What are the chances of the women's leagues getting anywhere near the focus, care and attention they need? The more you can join the dots between the pieces in women's football, the more you're going to make the whole stronger.

“A few years ago being run by the SFA was definitely the way to go because they can join all the dots. But now the SPFL has more control and influence over the SFA.”

As far as Jamieson is concerned, women's football should concentrate on its own strengths and qualities, which are increasingly aligned to the values of sponsors, rather than making the fatal mistake of becoming a pale version of the men's game.

“Men's football in Scotland is not a great blueprint to copy,” he said bluntly. “To follow what they have been doing would appear to be exactly the wrong thing.

“Women's football can bring a lot to Scottish society by making it more civilised. When I worked at the SFA it always struck me how articulate the national team players were.

“I recognise that SWF are heavily under-resourced and always have been. They're very thin on the ground in terms of personnel. As the game gets more professional I can understand there's a strategic conundrum.

“The Scottish government should be lobbied for funding. The angle to take is that it's about female empowerment, equality and opportunities – as well as benefiting society more widely in terms of promoting physical and mental health, and all the values that go along with team sports.

“Women's football is still at the embryonic stage and needs to be carefully nurtured. There has to be a far more holistic approach than the tribalism we see in men's football. And, although I'm stereotyping, women tend to be much more collaborative.”

While Jamieson reckons a better resourced and more robust SWF might be the answer, he also accepts that a self-governing SWPL could be the preference of the top clubs. If so, he recommends the American model of centralised marketing and sponsorship.

The two recent donations of £250,000 and £100,000 add substance to the view that women's football can financially afford to take a different path from the men's game. Both James Anderson and the anonymous second philanthropist have stated an interest in ongoing relationships – with Anderson now also funding Glasgow City's Champions League preparations and travel to Spain.

While Jamieson will not name the SPFL representative who refused to back the soccer centres, by a process of elimination it can only have been Mike Mulraney, the Alloa chairman.

Mulraney was in the news on Tuesday. The man who tried to deny women's football a lasting legacy back in 2017 has become the SFA's interim president.