This was not the usual “date” I went on with my mother-in-law. We’d been to games before—occasionally, as the family has Falkirk season tickets—but always flanked by the “men folk”. My mother-in-law and my outings usually centre on shopping, chatting and coffee. Very rarely, well actually never before, had we discussed going to a football match, just the pair of us.
However, on Saturday October 20 we drove to Hampden and joined 4000 others to watch football history being made. It was the first time EVER the women’s national team played at the national stadium.
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) deserves credit for supporting women’s football this way. After years of outright opposition, the match on such hallowed ground was an important symbol to show that times are changing and that more respect and support are being given to the women’s game.
The SFA deserves credit for not charging admission to the game. This meant teams of girls and boys could be bussed in to enjoy the game. It also meant that families could afford to come along.
I do wish however that this first-ever game was part of a grand plan to support and promote women and girl’s football in Scotland. The SFA does have a development plan however the match really only took place at Hampden because the team’s usual home pitch, Tynecastle Stadium in Edinburgh, was not available. The team knew that they would play their Euro 2013 qualifier on 20 October but only found out where the day of the draw.
This week the English Football Association (FA) announced a 5-year plan for women’s football in England that included priorities to grow participation and the fan base. This plan was developed largely in response to Team GB’s performance in the Olympics this summer and the record-breaking crowds that the Olympic women’s football attracted.
Scots Kim Little and Ifeoma Dieke both played a large role in the team’s success. The Olympic women’s games held at Hampden were also well attended. Isn’t time for the SFA to put some more resources into promoting the game for potential fans and players and not leave their support to chance?
I know why I went to the game at Hampden. I felt proud to be supporting Scotland on such a historic day. But I was also proud that the busloads of the kids present–both boys and girls– knew that women could play Scotland’s national game too.
However, I wondered why my mother-in-law felt she really wanted to go. She’d never been to a “ladies” match before. She said that she wanted to go because she knew that it was important for me, but also that she wanted to do something different. She watched Team GB and really enjoyed it. She wanted to support the ladies team. She said she loved the atmosphere of the game and was sorry that the game didn’t go on for longer. She said that she would definitely come back.
There are probably elements of my mother-in-law’s experience common with many in the Hampden crowd. Over and above a good result, this reaction is exactly what SFA and the women’s team would hope for with the game and why more games should be held at Hampden.
She also said that she would have never known about it if I hadn’t brought it to her attention. If women’s football is going to grow it’s promotion needs to be better and needs to be part of a larger, formal plan and not ad hoc like the game at Hampden.
At the end of the match, my mother-in-law asked what was next. I told her the team would play again in Spain to decide which team would go on to the Euro Championships. I asked her if she wanted to go. She said, “We’re part of the Tartan Army now.”