Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, today welcomed a partnership that will enable the Scotland Women’s National Team to train full-time in the build-up to the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 finals in Netherlands.
Funding from sportscotland, through its National Lottery stream, SSE and the Scottish Football Partnership will enable those home-based international players in full-time employment or education to focus solely on their preparations for this summer’s tournament.
The ground-breaking move has been met with the support of the players’ employers and educational establishments.
The scheme is now under way and will continue until after the end of Scotland’s first-ever campaign in the European Championship finals.
Anna Signeul's squad will train at Oriam, Scotland’s sports performance centre, based at Heriot-Watt University, and will have access to the full range of support services from the sportscotland institute of sport.
Hailed at Hampden
The First Minister – who is also Patron of the Women’s National Team – was joined by Sports Minister Aileen Campbell, Scotland Women’s National Coach Anna Signeul, Hibernian midfielder Joelle Murray and Glasgow City midfielder Leanne Ross at Hampden Park to announce the funding package.
Around half of the squad are expected to benefit from the scheme, including Murray, Ross, Fiona Brown, Megan Cunningham, Nicola Docherty, Gemma Fay, Lucy Graham, Hayley Lauder and Jo Love.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon: “I'm delighted that this funding arrangement will allow our women's national squad to train full-time ahead of next year's European Championship.
“They have done tremendously well in qualifying for their first ever major tournament and this will help the squad to arrive in the Netherlands in the best possible shape.
“I hope the achievements of this team will raise the profile of women's football in Scotland and inspire many more women and girls to take up the sport and attend games.”
A strong statement
Head coach Anna Signeul added: “It’s fantastic that sportscotland, Scottish Football Partnership and SSE have come together to support the players in being the best they can be ahead of their first ever European championships.
“It’s a strong statement from all three parties that they care about the women’s game in Scotland and are willing to help the players improve. We feel we have support from everyone and that will help us going into the Euros.
“To have our best domestic players on the same playing field as their teammates who are full-time professionals is really important. It offers equal opportunity and will stand us in good stead ahead of July.”
This approach was used for the Scottish Women’s hockey team in the lead in to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 where Team Scotland narrowly missed out on reaching the semi-final stage of the competition.
Mel Young, Chair of sportscotland, said: “What a fantastic achievement from Scotland women’s national team to qualify for UEFA Euro 2017 Finals for the first time.
"We know that there is still a great deal of work to be done. That is why funding from the National Lottery will be used to enable the players to go full-time, allowing them to focus completely on training and competition.
“The feedback we got from hockey was that this approach, together with the existing specialist support from the sportscotland institute of sport, paid dividends for the team, allowing them to remain in the top flight in Europe and perform well at the Commonwealth Games.
"Our aim is to give this team the best possible platform to compete on the European stage and we look forward to cheering them on next summer.”
Colin Banks, head of SSE sponsorship, said: “SSE is a proud supporter of the women’s game, from grassroots to elite level, and this funding will help ensure the team can fully prepare and focus on the tournament whilst balancing their work and family commitments.
“These athletes work hard every day combining both and qualifying for this summer’s European Championships whilst working full-time is a significant achievement which underlines the quality and the strength of the women’s game in Scotland.”
Stuart McCaffrey, chief operating officer at the Scottish Football Partnership, said: “The Scottish Football Partnership is delighted to be able to assist the women’s national squad in their preparations for the Euro 2017 Finals in the Netherlands.
“It was a fantastic achievement for the players to qualify for the Finals and we hope that our funding support will enhance Anna and her squad’s ability to progress far in the tournament. We would like to wish them every success.”
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