CELTIC will be hoping to set a new record for a Scottish women's club match when they host Hibernian on Saturday. The staging of the SWPL 1 game at Celtic Park has been helped by the men's side being inactive during their international window.

That, I believe, is an avenue the new SPFL women's leagues are keen to explore from next season onwards. Fixture lists are likely to be tweaked so that derby games are scheduled when men's grounds are available.

The aspiration, obviously, is that games being held at big stadiums will raise the profile of women's football. That will undoubtedly happen, but whether it will lead to the secondary benefit of larger attendances at run-of-the-mill league games is highly questionable.

There will be a spectacular example of women's football being played at an iconic men's ground on March 30. They don't – literally in Europe – come any bigger than the Camp Nou, and Barcelona's Champions League quarter final second leg against Real Madrid will be played at the stadium.

The game is set to break all sorts of crowd records, with the home fans set to enjoy another women's El Clasico celebration. Untouchable Barca won a third successive Primera Division title last Sunday, beating their oldest rivals, who are a distant fifth in the league, 5-0.

There was a Johan Cruyff Stadium record of 5430 at that game (ground capacity 6000), but all 85,000 available tickets for the Camp Nou quarter final were snapped up almost as soon as they became available in mid-January. The majority were claimed by members taking advantage of a free ticket offer, but even so it is ab extraordinarily impressive take-up.

The crowd will surpass the Spanish record of 60,739 for Atletico Madrid versus Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in 2019, and also smash the Champions League highest attendance of 50,212 for the 2011-12 final in Munich, when Lyon beat Frankfurt 2-0.

Free tickets to season ticket holders also resulted a Scottish club record of 5512 when Hibs beat Hearts 3-0 at Easter Road in September, and that is the target Celtic will want to better on Saturday. Their free offer to season ticket holders ended on Wednesday, at which point they went on general sale, but the attendance might be adversely affected by the home side no longer being in contention for the title or even the second Champions League spot.

By coincidence, Hibs also host Hearts today, but this time at the Tony Macaroni Arena. Judging by what we have seen across SWPL 1 this winter, the attendance is likely to be small even if the temperature, finally, should be more fan-friendly.

The game is being covered by BBC Alba, while last Sunday the broadcaster was televising Glasgow City v Celtic live at the same time as BBC Scotland was streaming Hamilton Accies v Rangers. Some people believe this is the best way to reach a wider audience, which will eventually translate to bigger crowds, but it's not borne out by the evidence to date.

A strategy to grow attendances must surely be a priority for the new women's leagues. The entirely legitimate excuse of Covid having been a factor in the low crowds will hopefully disappear from next season onwards.

Fran Alonso, meanwhile, will be in the technical area for the Celtic Park game. The Spaniard was shown a red card in the aftermath of last Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Glasgow City, but his one match suspension will apply to today's game against Motherwell.

And Another Thing


AS a consequence of that win, City can now look forward to yet another season of European football. Rangers, however, remain overwhelming favourites to win their first women's trophy.

Both are at home today, with City playing Partick Thistle and Rangers hosting Spartans. Then, on Wednesday night, Rangers will play the first of their two games in hand against Aberdeen at Pittodrie – the first time Emma Hunter's side have played there, but with only one stand open a new attendance record is unlikely.

Glasgow City stand-in captain Hayley Lauder says all her side can do is win their remaining seven league games and hope Rangers stumble. However, as well as their two matches in hand Rangers have a better goal difference and will also enjoy home advantage in the crucial game between the sides on May 8.

If, however, City can win that one the title race could well go down to the last round of fixtures the following Sunday, and what a finale that would be. Rangers are away to Celtic, while City are at Hibernian.