RANGERS goalkeeper Jenna Fife is optimistic that the move towards professional female footballers in Scotland will further encourage growth within the sport.

Figures released this week have shown that the number of female players has risen by 21% since the televised women’s World Cup in France this summer. An astonishing 82 million spectators watched the final between the Netherlands and the USA – a rise of 56% from the previous final.

Sustaining the trajectory of those figures is something that Fife believes will be aided by the visibility of the professional players in the country for the first time this season.

In a bid to challenge Glasgow City’s monopoly this season both Celtic and Rangers have streamlined their women’s teams into a professional structure with Fife thrilled at the opportunity.

Glasgow Times:

“It feels like a really privileged position that we are in,” said the 24-year-old. “I would never have expected that this was a chance that would be offered in Scotland. I always thought that if professional football was an option then it would mean leaving the country so this feels amazing. Hopefully we can go on and be successful now.

“Growing up for me, all my role models were in the men’s game. I didn’t really know of any women’s players at all and it wasn’t something that was ever seen as a viable career option. I do think we can be role models for younger girls and more can start playing.

“Coming into a full-time environment has been brilliant. I have loved every minute of it. We are training more but I am sure I will feel the effects of that going through the season and I am sure we will feel fitter.

“I was studying sports science at university. I left in the summer and did my own thing and then Rangers came in. I didn’t know what Rangers were doing and I wasn’t sure about the move towards full-time football so I was delighted when I was offered the move.

“It is so professional and we are really integrated which I was surprised about when I first came in. We are walking the same corridors, sharing the same canteen, in at the same time and using all the same facilities. We have been able to chat it feels pretty amazing to have the resources that are here for us.”

Fife was called into Shelley Kerr’s Scotland squad this week for the Pinatar Cup in Spain next month. Scotland face Ukraine on March 4th, Iceland on March 7th and Northern Ireland on March 10th.

Glasgow Times:

Fife has four caps so far and is keen to add to her tally now.

“I love being within the international set-up,” she said. “I just want to keep bettering myself. I have spoken to Shelley. She is always open to communication and she is delighted at the prospect of two Scottish clubs moving professional. Hopefully it really elevates the standard.”

Rangers kick start their league campaign this afternoon against Hearts. Pushing City, who have won 13 successive titles, will be the key but Fife was wary of predicting when Rangers will be in a position to topple the crown of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists. “We are a very new team but I think the whole league will be competitive,” she said. “We have our targets in how we want it to play out. We’ll see how it goes.”