The recent move by Rangers to put their women’s first team squad on semi-professional contracts from January has been met with delight by new signing Emma Brownlie, while her former club Hibs have expressed their determination not to be left behind in the wake of what marks a significant step for women’s game in Scotland.
“Definitely not,” said 26-year-old Brownlie when asked if she could have foreseen a day when Scottish clubs would pay their women’s teams. “It’s exciting that Rangers are going ahead and doing this.”
The right-back, who has also played for Celtic and won six cup winners’ medals with Hibs, joined Rangers from Everton last month.
She is the first player at the club to go semi-pro, but Rangers are expected to go on a big recruiting drive over the winter – as well as offering contracts to existing players who match their new ambitions. Head coach Gregory Vignal says the club’s aim is to win the league for the first time and go on to play in the Champions League.
While 12-time champions Glasgow City already have some players on professional contracts – including another former Hibs player Rachel McLauchlan – and Glasgow rivals Celtic having spoken of offering full-time contracts to their players in future, Hibs assistant head coach Stewart McGuire says the club is taking steps to ensure they remain one of the leading lights in the women’s game.
With the national performance academy based in Edinburgh, Hibs have enjoyed something of an advantage when it comes to recruiting some of the country’s top players, but McGuire was asked if he feared the club may be left behind by their rivals’ investment.
“It might look like that, but we are preparing for things in the background as well,” he said.
“We can’t go into too much detail at the moment because none of these things are written in stone as yet. We’re doing our own preparation and we’ll let our girls know as soon as possible what we’re planning.
“I don’t think we’ll be left behind – we’ll be in the midst of it. We’ve always shown a commitment to the women’s game and that will be there.”
Brownlie, who won three Scottish Cups and three League Cups while in Edinburgh, is hopeful Hibs will continue to be a force in the women’s game, admitting: “Hibs will always be a club close to my heart because of what they’ve done for me as a player.
“But in football there’s a point where you have to be selfish and progress your game. Rangers are a huge club and the intent and ambition they have for women’s football is massive.
“I had a few options after Everton but for Rangers is a club which is very much heading in the right direction.”
Rangers take on Glasgow City at Forthbank in the semi-final of the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup today and Brownlie added: “Glasgow City have won the league for the last 12 seasons and have a team full of experienced players so we’re obviously the underdogs going into this one, but in a cup competition you have to beat the best to win it.”
Hibs feature in the second semi-final against Motherwell, which is also being staged at Forthbank.