FIONA McINTYRE is determined to build on the feel-good factor surrounding the women’s game in the aftermath of Euro 2022 by raising the profile of the sport in Scotland.
The Scottish FA’s head of girls’ and women’s football, speaking at yesterday’s launch of the SWPL, watched on from home as Sarina Weigman’s England side lifted the trophy for the first time in their history courtesy of a 2-1 win over Germany at Wembley on Sunday.
The tournament received unprecedented media coverage and McIntyre is adamant that the Scottish game can capitalize on the increased interest in the women’s game – particularly this winter when the men’s World Cup takes place in Qatar.
“Everyone is talking about women’s football this week, even people who have never spoken about women’s football are talking about it,” she said. “It is how we capitalize on that and the league will have a massive part to play in that.
“We have seen what happens when Scotland has qualified for a major tournament. There is immediate interest from the media and fans, but how do we make sure that the media are there every week, that commercial partners stay the course over the season? That is the bit that is key.
“Our responsibility is to make sure that interest continues. We have to keep improving the product by putting more investment into the clubs and supporters need to know where to go to watch games.
“The clubs have a huge role to play and they deserve a lot of credit because a lot of them have driven the game to the point it is at right now. But from our point of view we can be a bit more strategic in terms of our scheduling.
“For example, there is a World Cup for men this year which means there is a break in the season. That means Premiership stadiums are empty, fans have nowhere to go, so we have a derby day at the end of November and we will try to encourage all our clubs to play these games in their stadiums.
“We will try and market and promote that weekend. Centrally we can do things as a league but essentially it is a collective effort.”
The SWPL is currently without a title sponsor and a broadcast partner, but McIntyre revealed that supporters can expect an update on that front in the near future.
Domestic cup semi-finals and finals will be played at Hampden for the first time this season and McIntyre contends that although there are critics who argue that the national stadium won’t be packed out for the showpiece occasions, this misses the point entirely.
“It is huge,” she added. “People debate the size of Hampden and whether it is the right place.
“But there is a symbolic aspect to this; if you are a girl in Scotland and you have aspirations of playing for your country or getting to a national cup final you should be able to play in the national stadium.
“It is not the men’s national stadium, it is the football national stadium
“It is a statement of intent that the Scottish FA is backing up the strategy that it put out last year of putting investment into the game. Rather than seeing it as a big stadium, I see it is a big opportunity to drive in big crowds.”