It is time to sit up and reward success. No longer can we pigeon hole women’s sport into the second class bracket.
We have witnessed the passion, commitment, hard work an dedication of the Scotland women’s national team who made history last night by qualifying for the Fifa World Cup finals in France next year. They are straight through – no need for play-offs – and they did it by comprehensively beating teams who are sitting further up the Fifa ranking.
What will this mean to Scotland and how can we capitalise on this success? The hard work really starts now and I don’t mean for the team. We need the Scottish FA to come up with an inventive marketing plan to put the players in pole position and ensure that they become household names. We know that investment is at a high for the women’s game, but I believe that this needs to be re-examined and increased budgets should be forthcoming to support this ambition.
By increasing this budget and identifying target markets we can change the face of domestic football for all women and girls in Scotland. Opportunities to endorse products, impress sponsors, grow grass-roots, have to be identified and utilised for the players.
Erin Cuthbert, Rachel Corsie, Kim Little and the rest of the triumphant squad have to become household names. Young girls should be proudly sporting their names on the backs of football shirts.
Also lets start mobilising the Tartan Army to get supporters to travel to France and support the team next year.
It has been 20 years since we have had a team in the World Cup finals – coincidentally that was also in France, when the men qualified in 1998. I was there and I remember the moment as Scotland faced Brazil to kick-off the tournament. This is an opportunity to recreate that feeling, and this time make it the family World Cup.
Opportunities like this only come around once every four years –and we need to make the most of it.
Today’s players can inspire the next generation and ensure a pipeline of talent comes through. We have the platform, we need to use it. Well done Shelley Kerr and her Scotland team. You have made the country proud.
l Maureen McGonigle is the founder and CEO of Scottish Women in Sport.