SCOTLAND’S Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, Shona Robison, last night called for sportswomen to be judged on their abilities and not their looks.
Speaking at the rebranding of the Scottish Women’s Premier League at Hampden Park, Robison said: “Women compete in sport on their merits, and what they look like has nothing to do with it whatsoever.”
Like the UK Culture Minister, Maria Miller, and other senior politicians, Robison said she was dismayed by BBC commentator John Inverdale’s recent crass comments about the Wimbledon women’s champion, Marion Bartoli. Nine years ago the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, was also condemned for remarks he made about women footballers playing in tighter shorts to promote “a more female aesthetic”.
Robison said: “Thankfully these kind of daft comments are getting fewer and fewer. On reflection it wasn’t the wisest thing for him [Inverdale] to say.”
Robison has been invited by Uefa to speak at a conference in Stockholm this weekend in which she will outline the measures her government has taken to increase participation in girls’ and women’s football.
“In other countries in Europe women’s football is absolutely huge,” she pointed out. “That is what we want to aim towards. Girls’ football is the fastest growing sport in Scotland, with 250,000 now playing through the Active Schools Network. When I was growing up there was no organised football for girls and it wasn’t really encouraged. Getting girls active in sport and continuing that into adulthood is crucial because of the health benefits.
“There is clearly something very attractive about football, otherwise we wouldn’t be getting the huge numbers playing.”
At yesterday’s launch, attended by representatives of the SWPL teams, Robison praised Anna Signeul’s Scotland side for attaining its highest Fifa ranking of 20th, as well as 11th in Europe: “The game here has come a long way, and the current role models will inspire more girls to come into football.”.
The SWPL season resumes on Sunday after its summer break, with the league splitting into the top six and bottom six.
That will make for more attractive games, including the one between leaders Glasgow City and third placed Rangers, but if the rebranding exercise is to be successful a reduction in the number of teams from twelve to eight may be necessary to ensure better competition throughout the season.
The players themselves seem to understand this, as there has been a significant movement of personnel – most of them gravitating to top-six clubs – during the summer.
The most high-profile is Scotland’s record goalscorer Julie Fleeting who has switched from Kilwinning to Celtic. Second-placed Hibs, having seen outstanding midfield prospect Caroline Weir leave for Arsenal, have themselves recruited another highly regarded teenager, Lucy Graham from Forfar Farmington.
Hibs also welcome back Scotland goalkeeper Shannon Lynn following her loan spell with Chelsea, but Forfar have paid a high price for narrowly failing to make the top six – they have also lost Scotland right-back Rachael Small to Aberdeen.