Scottish Women's Football

My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football

SWPL Reconstruction: Will It Work?

SWPLFor next season, Scottish Women’s Premier League (SWPL) has seemed to have taken the default position of Scottish Football and copy the English league structure. This time, they have taken the eight-team structure of the Women’s Super League (WSL) to create the SWPL 1. There is a small differentiation with the SWPL 2 compared to the WSL 2 as the Scottish version will have 8 teams, two less than the English counterpart.

Will these changes work?

At times, it does feel like promoting women’s football is like promoting art-house cinema compared to the blockbuster franchise. All you have to say is Celtic or Jose Mourinho, and you have a captive audience waiting to consume the next installment. Mention Celtic Ladies, and there is still an unfortunate element that is diminishing of justification. This means you need the product the SWPL provides to be as close to perfect as possible.

The reason why many people claim the English Premier League is the best league in the world is not due to the quality of players nor due to cultural reasons. It is because there are very few major top tier leagues where the team in bottom place can beat the first-placed team season after season. And there are very few major top tier leagues where you can say there are five strong title favourites and three or four possible outside contenders.

Of course, due to the heritage that the Premier League inherited, it will always have a marketing advantage that the SWPL can only dream off. But it shows that it helps if you have that competitiveness.

The 2015 SWPL has been an exciting tournament. The promoted teams Stirling University and Hearts were unlucky not to break into the top six. At the time of writing, there are 9 points between 3rd placed Aberdeen and 8th placed Hearts. This distribution of points shows there is a wide concentration of evenly-matched teams.

But, it never looks good when teams win by large margins, and this season there have been 18 matches with a minimum of a 5-goal winning margin.

However, if you then look at the results between the top six teams, and then the results between the bottom six teams – there has not been a single match that has a 5-goal or bigger winning margin. This shows that there is effectively those two leagues already.

This is not saying that the bottom team six sides should not be playing Glasgow City, Hibernian, or Celtic. It is pointing out that competitive inequality gives a false impression of the league. Look at Hearts and Stirling University. Both sides have had great home form, which shows there is something promising. If you remove the results involving Forfar Farmington, Hamilton, Hutchinson Vale and Inverness City – Hearts and Stirling University would be sitting on 4 points, the same as Rangers and Spartans. They are two teams that could survive in the SWPL 1.

Yes, Hearts had heavy defeats against Glasgow City and Celtic, but generally this season they have been able to compete. It is hard to draw concrete conclusions from these statistics. After all, form changes over the season.

But it does look like the eight-team SWPL 1 would have a competitive edge, where the team in 8th place will be able to compete the against 1st place team. And more importantly, the eight team SWPL 2 will be competitive, and the promoted sides will be in a position to compete.

Scottish Women’s Football needs teams like Hutchinson Vale, Inverness City and Hamilton to be strong competitive sides, just like it needs Glasgow City and Hibernian to be fighting out in an exciting title race. It needs these sides to be playing in a competitive league to continue growing attendances.

These reforms of the SWPL may not quadruple attendances overnight, or quadruple the column inches. What it seems it will do, though, is provide a competitive league system that will increase the chances of quadrupling the attendances and column inches.

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