THERE is, among the comments published in the recent survey of clubs conducted by Scottish Women’s Football, one that stands out – both for its tone of certainty and contentiousness.

“We believe the current pandemic has presented a somewhat unique opportunity to grasp the nettle and change to a traditional season by extending the 2020 season to run until May, 2021,” said one unnamed top-division club.

“There are a variety of reasons behind our thinking... regardless of the immediate outcome of coronavirus related issues, we will be championing a move to the traditional season for the SWPL as it is undoubtedly for the overall benefit of the game in this country.”

That is a slightly condensed version of the actual comment, but the message is the same – that a winter season would “undoubtedly” be for the overall benefit of women’s football in Scotland. This despite the last such season, in 2008-09, having over 20 per cent of its games postponed.

Nevertheless, winter football does appear to be the strong preference of the top clubs. Seven of the eight Scottish Building Society SWPL1 teams told the survey they wanted it. The exception was Forfar Farmington.

Unlike Celtic and Rangers, Forfar are run by a small band of volunteers and don’t share the view that fortnightly winter trips to the central belt are to their benefit. They also point out that the SWPL switching season would mean their volunteers having to work all the year round.

Celtic, who are championing the change to a traditional season, didn’t take up an invitation to elaborate. They are understood to believe there will be commercial gains from having their men’s and women’s teams playing at the same time.

Rangers have the issue of the training facility (and ground) at Milngavie which they share with the men’s team and academy. Glasgow City, like other clubs, are fed up with the stop-start nature of summer seasons, punctuated as they are by international windows and major championships.

In SWPL2, only four of the 10 clubs indicated they wanted winter football, but that still left 61 per cent of the top two leagues in favour. In the Championship, 10 of the 26 clubs wanted it, while 14 (mostly in the north division) were against. Two didn’t respond.

Yet for the regional clubs – formerly known as recreational – it was totally different. Although only 85 out of 173 responded, the overwhelming wish was to retain the summer season. Adding their votes to the mix, 61 per cent of all clubs who responded to the survey wanted the season to remain as it is.

That being the case, the league management committee, who have the unenviable task of deciding how football should proceed in 2020 – assuming it does – are presumably mandated to go with the wishes of the majority. Which is for the season which started in February to run through to December with fewer league games and the Scottish Cup to be sacrificed in favour of finishing the League Cup.

Lorna Cameron, SWF’s interim executive officer, said: “The survey has been a really positive exercise for us. It has allowed us to engage with the members and understand some of the key questions about what football might look like when we’re able to return.

“There seems to be a real desire from SWPL1 clubs specifically to move to a winter season, but that’s not mirrored across the whole performance pyramid. Some of those who didn’t want an immediate winter season did suggest that they were open to looking at it in the medium to longer term – but didn’t see it as an appropriate short term solution due to this pandemic.”

What the survey has revealed is a potentially irreconcilable difference of opinion over whether a summer or winter season should be played. A majority of SWPL clubs have one view and almost all of the regional clubs the opposite. That, in turn, suggests the former may see their future within a different structure.

Earlier this year one option being mooted was an SPFL takeover – but the pandemic, and the organisation’s highly fractious response to it – may have made that less likely.

REGARDLESS of how the rest of 2020 shapes up, the Scottish Building Society has made a very welcome decision to continue its SWPL sponsorship, regardless of the shut down.

“We have supported women’s and girls football for three years and recognise the challenges players and teams face in these difficult times,” marketing director Kerra McKinnie pointed out. “We are determined to maintain that relationship to ensure the SWPL are ready to go when the season resumes.”