Motherwell CEO lauds the rise of women's football
Leeann Dempster, the Motherwell chief executive, has called on critics to accept that football is not a male preserve and support the rapid growth of the women’s game.
Speaking before Fir Park hosts Scotland’s World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland on Saturday, Dempster suggested that the Scottish Football Association could follow the lead of the Scottish Rugby Union and look at appointing a woman to the main board. She also revealed that her club is taking active measures to boost the crowd for the Northern Ireland game.
“We want to make it as good an atmosphere as possible,” she said. “To assist that, our community trust has purchased 1000 tickets. We are handing them out to local schools and the community teams that play at Fir Park.
“It will also be a reward for the people who work in our programmes.”
The first World Cup qualifier at Fir Park last month resulted in a 7-0 win for Anna Signeul’s side over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The result helped put Scotland top of Group 4 with maximum points from the opening two games, but the aftermath was soured by a well-known Motherwell fan trashing the occasion in a newspaper column.
“That was offensive to many, many people and he was right to apologise for it,” Dempster pointed out. “I felt particularly sorry for the women and coaches who work really hard at grassroots level to get girls interested in football.
“It’s an up and coming sport which is growing massively all over the world. The Scottish government and local authorities recognise the health benefits of getting girls and young women involved.”
Dempster, who has joined the SWF league management committee, admits she is a recent convert to the sport. “I’m steeped in the men’s game and always have been,” she conceded.
“It took me time to understand that women’s football is entirely different. The physicality isn’t there but the skill levels are very high. Everybody at the Bosnia match enjoyed it.
“The kids were making a racket and everybody was happy. Look at the morning after Scotland beat Croatia at Hampden: everybody went to work in a good mood.
“That’s the power of football in Scotland, so why should it be restricted to men? It’s easy for people to have a pop or make a joke but we should take women’s football more seriously.”
She added: “I wish it had been around when I was young. I would probably have had a go at it.”
Although she says her own focus is on Motherwell, the SPFL Premiership’s only female chief executive believes the SFA could put down a marker by inviting a woman on to the main board.
Solicitor general Lesley Thomson, a Melrose supporter, became the first female on the Scottish Rugby Board at the start of this month. “It’s occurring at Uefa and Fifa too,” Dempster pointed out. “It should happen at the SFA sooner rather than later.
“Our club would find it hard to survive if you took away every female season-ticket holder and those who pay at the gate. It’s not exclusively a men’s game.
“Women’s football will become commercialised in Scotland at some point in the future. It already is in America and other countries such as Germany, France and Sweden.”
Scotland will be favourites to make it three wins out of three on Saturday and one person who is not disagreeing is Northern Ireland’s Julie Nelson.
The Glasgow City central defender, who will be playing against several of her team-mates, admitted: “I’ll not predict a scoreline, but I think we’ll be happy with a draw.”
From Herald Scotland