“All about the football”: Taking a look at the women’s game in Scotland

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Edinburgh Caledonia celebrate scoring against Bonnyrigg Rose (Credit: SWF)

Women have long toiled to be recognised in the football world, but the tide is finally turning in their favour.

Women’s football has been around longer than you might expect. The first ever male international football match – Scotland versus England – was played in 1872. Only nine years later, the match was replicated, but only this time it was the women’s turn to play.

Between the two world wars, the Football Associations of Scotland and England banned the women’s game. The reasoning behind the ban is supposedly because the sport was considered ‘unfeminine.’ It’s enough to make your blood boil today, but such were the times. The tyrannical ban on the ladies’ sport forced teams underground as they sought out non-Scottish Football Association affiliated pitches to play on.

It wasn’t until between late 60s and early 70s that England and Scotland lifted their bans, reforming the inclusion of women into Football Associations.

Since then, ladies’ football has steadily grown in popularity and has started to gain more recognition in the mainstream media. The FA Women’s Super League (WSL) in England and The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the US have garnered a great deal of recognition, attracting substantial financial backing from both advertising and endorsements as well as government funding.

In the WSL, many players are starting to rake in salaries reaching £60,000. The highest earner in women’s soccer, Alex Morgan, who plays for Portland Thorns in the NWSL, earns £1.9 million a year, including sponsorships and endorsements.

These figures are dwarfed, however, by the stratospheric incomes of male footballers even compared to the rates of standard workplace pay gaps, but it is still an enormous step in the right direction.

Scotland is still catching up with the rest of the world in fashioning a professional women’s football.

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(From left to right): Kim Dallas, Alba Losada, Sammy Hyett and Emma O’Sullivan ready for training (Credit: SWF)

Sammy Hyett is the founder, chairman and captain of Edinburgh Caledonia FC, a women’s football team in the South East Second Division of the Scottish Women’s Football League. She started practising when she was just four because there was no space left in gymnastics.

“It all started because there was available space,” Hyett says. “But, it became a bit of a novelty because there weren’t any other girls and when you were young nobody really minded if you were playing with the boys.”

The midfielder turned down a professional football scholarship in the US because she was expected to coach when she just wanted to play.

“I picked Heriot-Watt [University] because of the Hearts academy that’s there, I went along to the fresher’s football day and there were about 100 people there and I was the only girl.

“They obviously didn’t have a women’s football team then so they said I could come along and train, but I could be the best there and they still wouldn’t treat me the same. This was back in 2004, there weren’t options, I wasn’t going to get the same opportunities… so I started my own team.”

Hyett had a series of injuries after university, which stopped her from playing. She decided to build a women’s branch of the all-male Football Club of Edinburgh. Before long she took her team on a new path and formed Edinburgh Caledonia.

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Edinburgh Caledonia FC (Credit: SWF)

Edinburgh Caledonia FC

“The SWFA have always said they want to be defined as the women’s section separate to the men,” Hyett explains.

“They’ve always seen it as a hurdle to cross, that they have to prove themselves to the men and there seems to be this stigma and we felt that about being with the guys’ club, so we left”

She adds: “I would’ve given anything to play professionally and I had the chance, my twin and I were offered to play for Ross County professionally, but we were offered a minimal amount a week to live off and we couldn’t because I had to work. That was the only opportunity in Scotland at the time.”

People like Hyett have laid the foundation for the new generation of talented female footballers to realise their talents and be recognised on the world stage.

Hyett says: “It’s always been about the football, I genuinely don’t know what I would do without a football at my feet.”

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Kim Dallas breezes past Dundee City player (Credit: SWF)

Edinburgh Caledonia has begun their season perfectly, currently sitting top of their division after two games, scoring 22 goals and conceding nil. Hyett and her squad are aiming for promotion to the SWFL 1 where they would be up against the likes of Celtic Academy and Rangers Development.

The Scottish Women’s National Football Team are also on a high. This season, they have been funded by the Scottish government for the first time which means the players have been able to train full-time as they prepare for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France this summer.

There, the women’s team of Scotland and England will face each other once again, 138 years after they first met on a pitch, but now in a very different world.

 

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