Government urged to address football gender inequality during pandemic

by Campbell Finlayson

A letter has been submitted to the Scottish Government asking for them to address the gender discrimination in Scottish football.

While numerous levels of the men’s game across the country have been granted exemption to travel and play, only the top two levels of women’s football, comprising of just 18 teams, have been allowed to start their season.

Stirling University PhD student and Falkirk Women player Chelsea Raymond, wrote the letter and has since launched this new appeal, hoping to make a change. She says: “The main reason for starting this new appeal was really, I had enough of the deliberating, wondering and waiting for updates or for things to change. It felt like it was time to speak up and to try to make a difference.”

One of the major frustrations for Chelsea and others affected by the decision, is that most of the male players who have been granted exemption to play are part time, but they have been allowed to continue while the female players in the same situation, have not. Of the senior teams in Scottish football who have been allowed to keep playing, less than 6% of them are women’s teams, showing there is still work to be done in bridging the gap in equality, as she states:

“Obviously it is quite frustrating and it’s nothing new, especially in sport. It’s disappointing, especially during a pandemic, where everyone has faced a massively challenging year. It just proves how far society and the sector has to go. It means we need to start advocating for ourselves, seeking change and not taking no for an answer.”

Chelsea’s Falkirk side play in the Scottish Women’s Championship South, with both the North and South leagues at that third tier of women’s football, not given the permission to play. Non-contact training has only just begun within the last week, with no reasoning given as to why they are not able to play, while their male counterparts continue as normal.

Falkirk are of course one of the clubs to have signed off on the letter, but there are currently over 30 who have done the same, with clubs from all levels including the top tier, the Scottish Women’s Premier League, adding their representation.

Of course, the main aim of the letter and petition is to allow all female players to get back to playing the sport they love, but she does worry that if this doesn’t happen soon, it could be the beginning of the end, saying: “Obviously that’s the hope and I remain cautiously optimistic that we will be successful. Time will tell, but I fear what will happen to the game, the communities, the clubs and individuals if this isn’t overturned in the new year. Scottish women’s football will crumble. This will have a huge effect on the national team in the future and the longevity of clubs and teams.”

A link to the petition is available here for anyone who wishes to continue the fight to allow the rest of the women’s teams to return to action.

1 reply »

  1. Women ‘elite’ footballers are being abandoned like lambs to the slaughter by the SFA.

    Elite sport has been allowed to continue under the government’s new lockdown regulations, however, it is assumed that clubs are following protocol and testing players weekly. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    The SFA has not provisioned testing within the women’s ‘elite’ leagues. Women’s clubs are expected to train and play games without adhering to government guidelines on testing.

    Instead, the SFA have relied on medical advice that protocols for training and match days would be enough to protect clubs from infections. This advice is to check the temperature of each player prior to games and training sessions. This is wholly inadequate.

    Among some of the rules put in place this season, changing rooms and canteens at training grounds have to be closed, while players are encouraged to avoid car sharing.

    In complete opposite, our sisters south of the border are enjoying protocols which are currently in place for testing once a week and players are tested before they return to training across both the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship.

    Again, in total contrast to the SPFL’s four divisions who continue to play, the SFA funds testing, (albeit only those in the Premiership are required to test their players in order to play matches however teams such as Hearts are happy to resume testing). Surely this is far from equality, any solution that sees the SFA differ further from the opportunities provided for the SFA ‘elite’ men’s teams is proof of such discrimination. There appears to be little input from SWF or from Scottish Government’s Elite Sport Covid Advisory Group (ESCAG).

    Latest figures from the FA reveal a huge spike in the number of individuals testing positive across the English women’s game’s top two divisions. This is with regular testing, Scottish women are not being tested and have jobs within the community including, doctors, nurses, paramedics, firepersons, pharmacists, care workers, delivery drivers, teachers etc. Surely in the interest of player welfare and the wider community it is imperative to test our ‘elite’ sportswomen. Hospitals across the UK are being told they are to face a massive surge in Covid cases; we should be helping to reduce the transmission of coronavirus in our communities. We should be minimising the risk to the elite sports community, fans, friends and family who support them. By regular testing we would also minimise the pressure elite sport places on the wider community and healthcare workers during training and games.

    Clearly we should be protecting our national players. Would we really want to see no representation of Scotland in the upcoming Team GB pre-Olympics training camp in June? This could be a reality if we fail our Scottish women players by negligently ignoring testing protocols.

    “Prior to a gathering of elite athletes, for example at a training camp or competition, all athletes should have regular symptom checks and undergo RT-PCR or other screening for the virus. For the first gathering, testing 6 and 3 days prior to the event is recommended, as well as testing as close to the event as logistically possible. Interval (for example weekly) PCR testing for the duration of the gathering should be considered.
    COVID-19 and RT-PCR testing

    The current gold standard of testing is RT-PCR testing (4-6). The test is highly sensitive and specific to SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in laboratory conditions (2). Test results should be interpretated on the basis of the pre-test probability, previous test results and clinical history. Test sensitivity and specificity will rely on the: i) quality and location of swabbing; ii) testing equipment and reagents; and, iii) laboratory expertise.”

    Taken from the British Medical Journal.


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