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Daily Record
Daily Record
Ben Ramage

Buddie Banter: Level playing field for men and women must be future of beautiful game as St Mirren Women go from strength to strength

Like many people, I owe my love of football to my mum.

My parents divorced when I was very young and while never an ideal scenario for a child, I consider myself fortunate that me and my brother’s childhood days were split evenly between my parents. I know a lot of kids who weren’t as lucky.

As a result, we both picked up traits, traditions and passions from both parents that we’ve carried with us to this day.

My dad introduced me to golf, a sport I equally love that delights and enrages me in equal measure whenever I get on the course.

And while my father was also a keen and long-suffering football fan, it was my mum who introduced me to the beautiful game that has been an ever-present in my life ever since.

When I was just five, it was my mum who took me and my brother down to our local club and opened our eyes to a proper Saturday matchday experience.

It was classic lower-league stuff. Cramped terraces. Rubbish views. Crazy celebrations. Strong language and even stronger tackles.

And given it was the mid-90s, I have no doubt there was a fair amount of sexism still very prevalent in the ground.

“Football’s a man’s game.”

“He went down like a girl.”

“She fell over.”

I can remember these chants (and much worse) growing up and I can only imagine how hard it was for my mum to have to listen to those kind of antiquated and moronic views.

It’s only as an adult I can see how wrong those views were and it makes me realise how brave my mum was to take her two young sons to the football by herself all those years ago.

And I owe her so much for that bravery. A quarter of a century later football remains a huge part of my life. I know I’m one of the few fortunate people who gets to write about it for a living.

And with International Women’s Day taking place on Wednesday, it was brilliant to see St Mirren mark the significant date with a seriously significant sponsorship deal.

Two years ago, St Mirren Women were fighting just to stay alive. Coronavirus was ravaging the country and women’s football did not get the same support as the men’s game.

The Paisley club’s female players waited many months longer to be allowed to even train together again, while the men’s team were back enjoying top-flight football.

There were genuine concerns that the women’s team wouldn’t be able to sustain a big enough squad to deal with a league campaign. Unfortunately, several other female teams across Scotland failed to survive. Just last season there were games when the Saints could only muster one or two subs as they scrambled for numbers.

Fast-forward to this week and the women’s team have never been in better health on or off the pitch.

On Wednesday they picked up their second sponsorship boost in the space of a week. Kibble’s three-year deal was matched by the club board, giving them the most stable foundation they’ve ever had. The cash won’t just pay for boots and petrol. It gives St Mirren Women the solid foundation they’ve been craving to properly build for the future.

And no one deserves that stability more than the club’s head coach Kate Cooper. She has been the driving force behind the team, keeping them moving forward into some of the strongest headwinds they could ever face.

It was Cooper who kept her players engaged throughout the pandemic and forged one of the strongest team bonds in the country.

Not only have they survived, they’ve thrived.

Cooper has built and coached a talented, determined squad that have moved from the lower reaches of the SWF League One table last season to one that is challenging more established clubs for promotion.

And their greatest success has been the inspiration they’ve spread and continue to deliver to Renfrewshire’s young women.

Their historic game at the SMiSA Stadium last year saw youngsters watch their role models on the biggest stage in Paisley.

St Mirren Women players and their families after beating Westdyke at the SMiSA Stadium (Allan Picken)

And, crucially, it visually put them on a level playing field with the men’s team.

The optics of that cannot be under-estimated, and it’s brilliant plans are already being discussed for a second SMiSA showing later this campaign. So, this week it’s absolutely right to champion the impact of women on the beautiful game that we all love.

The future of football has to be an equal playing field for both men and women.

The sooner everybody gets on board with that and the last remaining dinosaurs ditch the misogynistic ‘banter’, the better.


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