For the past 3 Sunday's I've been doing match photography for Scottish Women's Football (SWF) to help promote the sport. It was an interesting experience, and culminated with me getting media accreditation from the Scottish Football Assocation (SFA) to photograph the Scotland Vs Belgium women's international friendly match at Falkirk Stadium, which was an exciting new experience for me.
Despite growing steadily for many years, the status of women's football in Scotland remains rather low-key, but following the success of the FIFA Women's World Cup a couple of months ago, SWF has been looking to capitalise on a growing global interest in the sport: So when I read that they were looking for a helping hand from some photographers I was keen to get involved.
I've avidly watched major women's football tournaments (ie: World Cup, Olympics, European championships, etc) for several years now - having first been impressed by the skill and flowing gameplay of the 2007 Women's World Cup in China, which (if I remember correctly) was extensively covered by BBC3 - and this years tournament, despite restricted coverage, continued to impress.
Although I was not too familiar with the game in Scotland, I was curious enough to spend time at some matches and do photography for the SWF website.
The game in Scotland is certainly far from as developed/commercial as the men's version (at this time), but I have found the few matches that I have so far experienced to be full of promise for the future; and considering the current state of our men's game (following last week's early exit from European competition by our top 3 men's clubs), I think the women's game is in a prime position to boom in popularity over the next few years.
The mainstream Scottish media focuses almost entirely on the men's game, and often spouts despairing headlines about the poor quality of our leagues, so for some positivity Scottish football fans may want to start looking towards the women's side of the game...
Glasgow City FC is the leading women's football club in Scotland, and despite being a part-time club, are into the last 32 (knockout stages) of the Women's Champions League - having progressed from the group stages undefeated against several professional European clubs!
They now face Valur (from Iceland) over 2 legs in September, and if they progress will equal the furthest any Scottish women's club has previously reached.
And while the men's national team have a tense battle against Spain, Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Liechtenstein, to qualify for the 2012 European championships (for the first time since 1996); the women's national team is currently riding high, having recently won their warm-up matches against Switzerland & Belgium as they prepare for the 2013 Women's European Championship qualifiers against France, Israel, Wales, and Ireland.
|Teammates congratulate Julie Fleeting after opening the scoring within 3 minutes.|
A trio of influential Scottish women, including the supreme Julie Fleeting, play for Arsenal Ladies, which at the weekend won the inaugural FA Women's Super League title, and with the core of our national team playing together with Glasgow City, the Scottish women have surely got to be strong contenders to qualify for Euro 2013.
In hard financial times when hefty attendance costs and dull quality of play repels fans from men's football in Scotland, women's football makes perfect sense: Attendance is cheap (if not free), matches are very competitive, unlike their highly-paid male counterparts the female players are reluctant to dive or feign injury; and most importantly at this moment in time, the women's game in Scotland is both growing in status and becoming evermore successful.
With this in mind, consider cheering on the team at their upcoming matches - click here for info/details from the SFA.
|Jane Ross & Hayley Lauder (blue) chase down an opponent.|