Eilidh Barbour: Sky Sports' debut Scottish women's game between Rangers and Hibs can 'break down barriers'

For pioneering Scottish football presenter Eilidh Barbour, this weekend’s Sky Sports SWPL Cup final between Rangers and Hibs will represent more than just a game.

Sky Sports presenter Eilidh Barbour during a cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Rangers at Tynecastle Park, on October 01, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Sky Sports presenter Eilidh Barbour during a cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Rangers at Tynecastle Park, on October 01, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

Set to be the first domestic Scottish women’s game to be televised on Sky Sports, Barbour believes the showcase match can the “milestone” moment the league has been waiting for and “real opportunity” to capitalise on the momentum seen throughout women’s football this past year.

“Being a cup final for our first televised game adds a little extra spice and a little more interest. Hopefully that can draw in a few people who might not normally watch women's football, so we can show them what we have on offer,” said the popular presenter.

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Back in September, Sky Sports announced a historic deal between themselves and the SWPL which would see the broadcaster offer investment that included being the primary sponsor to the SWPL cup, while they confirmed their commitment to the league further by announcing they would screen a ‘minimum’ of five Scottish women’s domestic games.

And the first of those will come this Sunday when league champions Rangers take on cup specialists Hibs at Tynecastle Stadium in a battle to take home the first silverware of the season.

“In Scotland we have made some huge moves over the last couple of years. There's a real challenge for the title these days - it is a real competitive race. We've moved so much in the last few years and this final is an opportunity to build on that momentum.

"Hopefully, with it being a final, we can draw in a few people who might not normally watch women's football and show them what we have on offer.

“Sky Sports coming in and showing so many games over the last year or so just shows what that visibility can drive in terms of interest, investment and excitement around the game.

"You're never going to appeal to everyone. Not every football fan is going to want to watch the women’s game, just like some Premier League fans won’t want to watch lower league football or internationals. But if you're a football fan that just enjoys watching football, there's a real opportunity to bring a lot of them to the women's domestic game in Scotland.

“In the WSL, you see many families who maybe can’t afford to go to Stamford Bridge, so they go to Kingsmeadow. It doesn’t matter to them if it is the men’s or women’s team because they get to sit in a stand and cheer on Chelsea players. We don't quite have that in Scotland which comes down to the visibility of the league.

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"It is about normalising things. I'm sure there'll be some things said about the game, the players or our presenting - because it is new. The more it becomes visible, the more it becomes normal for the women’s game to be on television, the more those barriers getting broken down naturally over time.”

As for the game itself, Barbour pinpointed one Rangers star she believes could be the difference between the sides, though she admits, while Hibs have the history in this competition, anything is possible.

"Tessel Middag is quality. A WSL title winner with Manchester City, a full Dutch international, she's done pretty much all you can in her career," she said.

“It is fantastic to see someone of that calibre and that quality come and play in Scotland - she has had her injury problems in the past but she is just another level.

"The professionalism of her as an individual is what makes it so beneficial to try and bring players from different backgrounds and career paths into the team, we need to push Scottish talent but to have young Scottish players playing alongside her is invaluable to their development.

"You can how playing alongside Tessel and Jenny (Danielsson), full internationals, has rubbed off on the likes of Brogan Hay and the other young Rangers players.

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“Defensively Hibs will need to be solid. She's only 18-19 years of age, but Eilidh Adams will be important. It is exciting to see her coming through and taking her opportunity at first team levels. Hibs will need to be compact and will look at the likes of Eilidh to make the most of the opportunities they get.

“Siobhan Hunter is a real presence at the back and they will need to be strong defensively, with Leah Eddie is another really good young promising defender coming through the ranks.”

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