By NEIL RIDDELL
SHETLAND’S female footballers have decided against taking part in this summer’s island games in Åland due to the high cost of travel and accommodation, but are looking to join the Scottish national league set-up in time for next winter.
Team manager Derrick Bradley said they had reluctantly decided against going because of the expense and the women were now starting to raise funds with a view to taking part in the 2011 Isle of Wight games, for which they have already raised around £4,000 in the past few months.
He said it was frustrating that the Shetland Island Games Association (SIGA) had not come with a figure for the cost, expected to be in the region of £1,000 per competitor, until September last year.
“It’s a shame that it was so close to it that they decided on the cost,” he said. “If they’d let us know 12 or 18 months ago it would have been no problem at all.”
Bradley said the team had looked into their own travel arrangements to get to Åland, flying from Aberdeen to Stockholm and then taking a lengthy ferry journey to the islands, but SIGA had said it could not provide accommodation if they were not willing to sign up to the full package and all the hotels on the main island were now booked up.
Later this year a delegation is to travel to the Scottish Women’s Football Association annual general meeting with a view to joining the national league set-up. Bradley said five of the teams in the Second Division North, which includes sides from Aberdeenshire, Dundee and Forfar, have intimated that they would be willing to travel north but four refused last year.
He said: “We’ll put our case forward that development doesn’t stop at the top of Scotland. [The association] should be telling these teams they have to come to us. We’re willing to come down nine times a year, surely they can come up once a year.”
If the Shetland team are successful in their bid, they would play upwards of 20 games over the course of next winter, between August and May, and would look to play most of their home games on the artificial surface at Harbison Park in Whalsay.
One of the team’s mainstays, Karen MacKelvie, said she was disappointed the team would not be taking part in Åland because she felt there was enough interest from the players.
“It’s unfortunate as I think we might have fared quite well this time around,” she said. “You can’t get the motivation and incentive if there isn’t a strong committee.”
MacKelvie said she did not feel SIGA was to blame in any way and that communication from their own committee could have been better, but she was now looking forward to the team pursuing other options to develop the women’s game in the isles, adding that getting into the Scottish league set-up would be “magic” and a “major achievement”.
In the meantime, the women are training twice a week ahead of their upcoming Scottish Cup tie against Celtic B, which was initially due to take place at the Glasgow club’s Lennoxtown training ground in East Dunbartonshire on Sunday, 1st February.
Because one of NorthLink’s boats is in dry dock, the team are unable to travel back to Shetland the following day and are now trying to get the fixture brought forward by 24 hours, but Bradley said Celtic had yet to come up with a suitable venue.