WE now know the first women's winter season since 2008-09 is scheduled to begin on October 18 and finish in June. There will be no Scottish Cup, and the leagues will be played in the same format as was agreed for the 2020 summer season – which has also officially been declared null and void.

Almost all of these key decisions were inevitable and the only realistic route out of the chaos created by Covid-19. It would have been preferable not to ditch the premier knock-out tournament, but the shorter format League Cup made more practical sense and was what the clubs overwhelmingly wanted.

As with all matters in this strange new world, nothing can be taken for granted. Any sudden spike in the virus, never mind a full blown second wave, could jeopardise the season, but assuming it finishes on schedule next summer what does that mean for the future?

Celtic were campaigning for permanent winter seasons even before the pandemic struck – and will continue to press for their introduction. The club believes alignment with the men's season will enhance sponsorship opportunities, increase the amount of games, and bring Scotland into line with most other European nations.

Winter seasons are favoured by seven of the eight Scottish Building Society SWPL1 clubs, with only Forfar Farmington dissenting. But just four of the ten SWPL2 clubs want them, while teams in Championship South are much more responsive than those in Championship North.

Viv MacLaren, the chair of SWF, says permanent winter seasons are not an inevitability. “It's a one-off until May and then we'll review it,” she said. “The one coming up happens to be in winter because of the circumstances.

“For me personally there's a wider discussion to have about summer or winter football. We tend to focus on the elite end of the game, but we have hundreds of clubs at grassroots level who would not be able to get facilities at certain points of the year.

“What works for the top end and the regional clubs isn't the same. We will not force clubs to go down a winter season if it doesn't suit them in the youth and regional leagues.

“I'm a fan of summer football. The desire for a winter season is coming mostly from the big clubs that have suddenly decided to invest in the game – it is being driven by more of a men's football agenda.

“There are a whole range of issues around it, and I won't be pushed into a position where it's winter football. We really need to look at it.”


THE arrival of Lizzie Arnot at Rangers, which was flagged up in this column last month, has raised the bar for a number of reasons.

The club's women's and girls' manager, Amy McDonald, believes the signing will hasten Rangers' aim of becoming Scotland's pre-eminent women's team. “Adding a player like Lizzie with her international and WSL experience will help us to reach our goal at an earlier opportunity,” she told the club website.

And although Kirsten Reilly, another ex-Hibernian player, and Zoe Ness have also made moves to Rangers from England, Arnot, with 32 Scotland caps, is a trophy signing in this regard. Yes, she was released by Manchester United at the end of her two year contract in June, but she remains a terrific two-footed attacking player with the potential to cause a lot of damage in SWPL1.

Celtic won't want to be reminded of the 2018 League Cup final, a month before her move to United. Arnot ran riot, scoring five goals and helping Hibs to a crushing 9-0 win.

Five of the Edinburgh club's winning squad are now at Rangers – Emma Brownlie and Chelsea Cornet also started, while Reilly and goalkeeper Jenna Fife were on the bench.

The new SWPL1 season is shaping up to be the most interesting ever. Rangers have made signings which will weaken Glasgow City as well as Hibs, but the 13-time champions have been brought in a number of experienced players.

Throw in a much stronger Celtic and it should be a competitive four team challenge for the title.


I UNDERSTAND Hearts have appointed a new first team manager. He should be unveiled in the next couple of days.

I won't rain on their parade, but if my information is correct it's an experienced figure from within the men's coaching staff.


FINALLY, congratulations to Erin Cuthbert on her three year contract extension at Chelsea. As ever, her timing is impeccable – she even chose her year of birth so she would be in her early twenties when lucrative long term contracts were introduced in England.