From the World Cup to Stark’s Park - interest in ladies football is on the up

Some of the Raith Women's squad, who will be in action against Cove Rangers at Stark's Park this Sunday (KO noon).
Some of the Raith Women's squad, who will be in action against Cove Rangers at Stark's Park this Sunday (KO noon).

Enthusiasm for ladies football has never been higher ... and Raith Rovers Women and Girls FC are hoping to reap the benefits.

Scotland’s qualification for their first ever Women’s World Cup in France has stirred the national interest, with more people than ever sitting up and taking notice.

Scotland forward Claire Emslie celebrates after scoring against England in the Women's World Cup. Pic: VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

Scotland forward Claire Emslie celebrates after scoring against England in the Women's World Cup. Pic: VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

Sunday’s tournament opener against England, which resulted in a narrow but commendable 2-1 defeat, was watched by a record audience of 6.1 million, while a warm-up friendly against Jamaica at Hampden last month attracted a record crowd of 18,555.

Raith Women and Girls are already a thriving club, with 120 players across nine teams, from under 9s up to the senior ladies, who currently compete in the SWFL Division 1 - North.

They also play their home games at Stark’s Park, and head coach, Euan Robertson, is hoping the World Cup will attract more girls into the club.

“We’re starting to see it in dribs and drabs,” he said.

“As the World Cup progresses, and with Scotland having a really good chance to get out their group, that will really help us in terms of publicity.

“I’m sure we’ll see in the weeks and months after the tournament what effect it has had on girls taking up playing.

“We know the summer holidays are a big opportunity for us and we have camps that we will be actively trying to bring more girls to.

“We’ve had 10 to 15 attending in years past, so if we can up that to around 20 or 30 then we can see that the World Cup has had a positive effect on us.”

Euan, who has studied and coached in America, believes that the World Cup is helping to remove some of the stigma surrounding the women’s game.

He said: “In America sport in general is very much open to everyone growing up – there is no difference between girls and boys.

“When I came back, in my first coaching session with Raith I saw the drive, ability, skill and technique was there, so for myself personally, I’ve never had a reason to have a stigma against women’s football.

“There are people who do, but we’re showing now and proving to everyone that the game is just as good, if not better in some cases, in terms of skill ability and tactics.

“There’s no real big differences, it’s still football.”

While the national team features full-time professionals from the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, most of the squad started at grass roots level within local clubs in Scotland.

For young girls joining Raith’s set-up, that can be something to aspire to.

“We’ve got a very young squad, so for quite a few of them there is the potential to continue to play and improve,” Euan said.

“Then come their mid 20s they will maybe get that opportunity to be called up, or even earn a professional contract, which is a huge thing in women’s football.

“All our girls are classed as amateur players doing it out of love for playing the game.

“As a coach we’re looking to make it as serious as possible for them because we want to try to climb the leagues and improve the overall impression of the club from the outside in.

“That will make sure we’re bringing in players year on year at all age levels who can help us become a Premier League team at some points.

“That’s a personal goal for myself and for the club.”

Raith have already proven successful at producing players with youngsters being selected for national age-group squads, while some have also been poached by clubs playing in the Scottish Women’s Premier League.

“It’s positive for the club,” Euan added. “People are watching our players, and giving them opportunities to progress, which is good.

“Even at the younger age groups players are getting scouted by other teams.

“It’s good advertisement for our club that girls are coming through our club then going on to play at a higher level after receiving coaching from our volunteers.”

A youthful Raith Women’s side are currently bottom of their division after a difficult start to the season but after securing a 4-3 win over fourth placed Buchan in their previous fixture, Euan believes the squad can climb the table.

“We suffered from inexperience at the start of the season,” he said.

“With so many young players coming into the squad we had to teach them the mentality more than anything because the skill was there.

“We’ve now got our first win against fourth place which was a real good mental block for them and gives us positives to take into the rest of the season.”

Euan is also delighted to have linked up with Raith Rovers to play games at Stark’s Park.

“It’s really brilliant for the girls, but it gives everyone else a proper stage to come and watch us as well, rather than just standing in a park, you’re sitting in a stadium which adds that atmosphere.”

Raith Ladies home matches - which are free to attend - take place at Stark’s Park on Sundays at noon, with the next match taking place this Sunday against Cove Rangers.

Anyone interested in taking their daughter along to Raith Girls, or joining themselves, can contact the club via Facebook.