Last Sunday saw the Scottish Cup Second Round, and 12 SWPL sides reached the Third Round. Spartans lost on penalties to Hamilton, Celtic beat Aberdeen, Renfrew beat Queen’s Park and Inverness City were banned from this year’s competition, having failed to put out a team in the 2015 Scottish Women’s Cup Second Round.
And, there were several high-scoring games. Glasgow City beat East Kilbride 26-0, Jeanfield Swifts 18-0 Ross County, Hibernian 11-0 Boroughmuir Thistle and Stirling University 10-0 Westerlands.
With the reshaping of the SWPL, the question of when the clubs enter the competition has been raised by the one-sidedness of certain results, as well as the fact Celtic played Aberdeen.
There were similar discussions last season when Glasgow City met Spartans in the Second Round.
Should SWPL 1 Sides Enter Round 3?
But, it’s a very difficult balancing act. Part of the magic of cup competitions are the shocks. Yes, normally, you don’t expect them to happen, but they could. They are the games that live on in the history.
There is the possibility of say, having SWPL 2 sides enter in Round 2 and the SWPL 1 sides of entering Round 3 – but that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of one-sided games.
For example, East Kilbride could have progressed through Round 2 against a Division Two side, and then still face Glasgow City in Round 3.
And, these are great days for the lower-league clubs. Players for East Kilbride get to say they played against legends like Leanne Ross, Boroughmuir Thistle’s players played against Joelle Murray. Surely, these are the sort of days where these players and club learnt from the top-flight?
But what it would lead to, is potentially promising. You could still have Division One and Two sides playing Glasgow City, Hibernian etc in Round 3. However, it is likely that these sides would be in a better position in giving the top sides a challenging game.
Should Round 2 Be Seeded?
There’s another possible solution. Seeding. Having the SWPL sides seeded (or the highest ranked 16 teams), but then that will almost definitely guarantee one-sided results. Glasgow City, Hibernian and Celtic could all play Division Two sides, and you will still most likely have 20-0 wins.
Plus, the idea that a SWPL 1 might play another SWPL 1 side early on is never a bad thing. Yes, for the two clubs it will be annoying – but for neutrals, it makes the cup more exciting.
One of the great stories from the 2016 Scottish Women’s Cup is the fact Raith Rovers beat Dee Ladies. Division Two beating Division One. It would be great if a side like Raith reached the Quarter-Finals. Okay, there’s little or no chance of them winning the tournament. In the Final, you’re pretty much guaranteed in facing a SWPL 1 side at the moment, and the likelihood is that will be Glasgow City, Hibernian, Celtic or Rangers. And yes, in the unlikely scenario, you got a Raith Rovers-Glasgow City Final, City will win it – but it’s a fairytale story that would hopefully get people interested in the game.
I’d argue that it is in the interest for the SWF to have an underdog run to the Semi-Finals, instead of the same clubs reaching the Semi-Final stages.
The issue at the moment is that the league system doesn’t have a quality distribution at the moment. You are getting one-sided results in the Division One and Division Two leagues. But, over the next few seasons, hopefully, that will be the sort of thing that will change. Clubs like Raith Rovers and East Kilbride are in their debut seasons.
Once that happens, then there will be more shocks.
What Should Change?
Should there be a change? It is really hard to say.
If there is a change, I’d argue for SWPL 1 sides entering in the Third Round, but right now, I think things should be kept the way they are.
However, there is a caveat. And it involves the SWPL Cup Final. Just imagine, in the Scottish Cup, whilst Glasgow City gets East Kilbride in the Second Round whilst Hibernian were drawn against Celtic. Doesn’t that give a huge advantage to Glasgow City? Hibernian possibly could have gone through 120 minutes, four days before a huge cup final against City.
With the fact the SWPL Cup Final is on Wednesday, something that has been complained about, mainly because children can’t come and watch if they live in Glasgow – there is a possible solution.
The Third Round is a Round of 32. Sixteen Division One and Division Two teams progress into Round 3 and are joined by the 16 SWPL sides. And, the SWPL Cup Final could take place on the weekend normally used for the Scottish Cup Second Round.
I’m still not convinced about this. My preference is that the SWPL Cup Final should be on the final Sunday before a mid-season break. Otherwise,for the other 14 SWPL teams, it just means another free weekend.
But, it’s something to think about.