The SPFL announced this week that they will now be the governing body for the SWPL1 and SWPL2. The changes will come into place in August when the new season begins.
Promotion and relegation between the SWF Championships and SWPL will still function as normal as the SPFL insists the previous pyramid model will remain for SWF clubs that are able to be promoted to the SWPL2.
The move to the SPFL aims to help clubs professionalise, give them better decision-making powers and better revenue streams. The SFA has also promised to give the SWPL clubs access to their commercial and broadcast resources to further promote and improve women’s football.
There will also be a separate board within the organisation for the SWPL and clubs’ wishes will be represented. Once the Park’s Motor Group’s sponsorship runs out the SPFL will oversee sourcing new sponsors for the SWPL and more commercial opportunities. The current League Cup will also be replaced by a replica that will be under the guidance of the SPFL.
The Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at the SFA and former Chief Executive Officer at SWF, Fiona McIntyre, said:” There won’t be any automatic transfers of sponsorship, the SWPL isn’t guaranteed to become the Cinch SWPL it’ll be a blank slate. At this point we need to explore all options and possibilities to make sure we get the best possible deal that has the most value for the clubs.”
Fixture clashing has happened frequently this season where SWPL matches have been played at the same time as their male counterparts which has damaged crowd sizes at big games as fans are forced to choose who they would rather watch. McIntyre said:” There are a number of factors that would be involved in adjusting fixtures.
“Firstly, you have the SPFL fixtures come out that are subject to change sometimes late in the day due to television broadcasts and then the same happens in the SWPL. I think this provides us an opportunity as the SPFL have advanced sophisticated software which allows you to factor in several parameters.
“I personally think this is something that we should be looking at is how do we provide the best opportunities for supporters to come along and support whatever version of their club they want to watch. What I would say however is that the footballing calendar is incredibly tight now. It is incredibly difficult to find dates for games so there may be instances where clashes happen, but we will proactively work to minimise the number of times that will happen as a key part of our strategy is to get as many supporters along as possible.”
McIntyre also said they would be looking to encourage clubs to play games in the likes of Ibrox, Celtic Park, Tynecastle and so forth as much as feasibly possible to further encourage fans to attend women’s games.
McIntyre also revealed that if clubs were unhappy with the changes they could withdraw, she said:” There is the Participation Agreement between the clubs and the league organisation that is running the league and there will be a notice period within that. I don’t know the specific timeframe, but I would speculate it would around two to three years so if the clubs were unhappy at any time, they can give their notice and depart from the league.
“I think it is really important that we keep the clubs together and that we work for the good of the game because that has been the most positive part of this process for myself personally. Seeing a group of clubs that are all competitive against each other on the field coming together off the field to do what’s right for the future of the game.”