Scottish women’s football may not restart in line with the men’s game on 1 August as coronavirus measures ease.
Professional sport is in phase two; a “restricted number” of spectators are allowed in stage three – potentially mid-July; with crowd restrictions eased further in stage four.
However, the women’s game is expected to face more hurdles than their male counterparts.
Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) says no decision has been made on a return.
The SWPL was just under way when football was suspended on 13 March because of coronavirus.
Playing non-contact outdoor sports was allowed to return in Scotland on Friday. The situation is assessed at least every three weeks – the next review is scheduled for 18 June – with further phases implemented if enough progress is made on keeping the virus under control.
And a meeting last Friday between the sporting governing bodies and Sport minister Joe Fitzpatrick discussed the way forward for a return to competitive action.
SWF interim executive officer Lorna Cameron told BBC Scotland that no decision had been taken regarding any of the women’s competitions.
“What we do know is that our SWPL would be considered under phase two of the map out of lockdown under ‘professional sport’, as we sought clarity from the Scottish government on this last week,” she added.
Any re-start will of course be contingent on the league/clubs’ ability to meet any health and safety protocols as laid out and agreed by Government.
One of the potential significant costs is testing, which may prove prohibitive, but SWF says it is going to do its “utmost to get the SWPL restarted as soon as it is safely possible”.
The SWF will conduct a feasibility study with clubs to assess their ability to meet the protocols.
Meanwhile, Spartans manager Debbi McCulloch says there’s “absolutely no way” her club would be able to test players every week.
“Without testing, we face a real dilemma,” she said. “I want football back, but would I put lives at risk or families at risk? Absolutely not. It has to be done properly.”
‘Timing is crucial’
Spartans played out just one match before the pandemic halted football – a 1-0 defeat by Hibernian at Ainslie Park.
“If we start again in August we could squeeze the season in,” said McCulloch. “But that would take you right up to the weekend before Christmas. Timing is crucial.
“I’m an optimist. We weren’t that far in to the league. I would hope other clubs would be on the same page about when we get started once again.”
The Spartans’ boss has been doing training diaries and regular Zoom training sessions for her players, to try to retain their focus and motivation, and to stay up to date with any injuries they have.
She says this has had a hugely beneficial impact on the women she coaches, all of whom are amateur, and who have busy lives outside of the footballing environment.
“I do worry about players dropping out – especially those who thought this might be their last season,” said McCulloch.
“I worry about their mental well-being and how this has affected them. They might come to the understanding that football isn’t as important as they thought it was.”