Sam Milne is no stranger to football in Tayside and Angus through her work with the Scottish FA. We sat down with Sam for a chat about her role with the SFA and who the game is developing for girls and women at all levels. Her role is that of Club Development Officer for Girls and Women’s Football and we began by asking what that involves.
“I often get asked what a day might look like in my job, however, it is not one that is easy described. In a nutshell, I cover the area of Tayside and Fife and my job is to support getting more girls and women into playing or volunteering in football.”
“Supporting breaking down barriers for them to participate and supporting clubs to have the right structure and Infrastructure in place to provide a platform for girls and women. My role is funded through the Cashback for Communities fund so I also manage a School of Football Programme where we support young people in school by using football as a tool to develop them in a school setting, in addition to all that, I also manage the regional performance squad programme for the region.”
Sam is rightly proud of being part of the drastic landscape change for Girls and Women’s football particularly when she was not allowed to play the game she loved at school because she was a girl.
“I feel exceptionally proud to be part of this. I have been in my role for 14 years and we always said, we needed to qualify for a major championship to kick the game onto the next level. We did that in 2017 and we have seen such a dramatic uptake of girls wanting to play football and women wanting to be part of that..”
“We have seen a complete mind-shift in so many people, girls and women’s football is an accepted sport and its been something I could only dream of. When I was younger there were no girls teams in my area and I was banned from playing football at school because I was a girl, so I feel exceptionally proud to have played a small part in the direction we are going.”
The focus on making football accessible to Girls and Women at all levels has taken so long and Sam believes that visibility of the game and particularly the players involved has helped.
“For me, it has been a change in peoples mind-shift about girls playing football. There was no visibility of women playing football and no role models for anyone to look up too. We now have more visibility of the game through social media and some mainstream media, which I think has really helped it. When I first started my job, we would hear a lot of “nah my wee girl isn’t getting to play, that’s to rough” but now people have started seeing it for what it is, a game of football. Now, little girls have people to look up too. Parents are enjoying watching it and the match day experience that comes with it. Its no longer seen as a dad and son activity with whole families getting involved in watching and playing the game.”
Here at Carnoustie Panmure the Women’s Recreational programme has exploded . Sam wears two hats with it, her SFA one but also one of a mum that returned to football and we asked how it had helped Sam and how it can help others.
“The women’s recreational programme is hands down the best thing I have ever been involved in. I had a bad injury at 28 and had to retire from playing football and never ever thought I would get the chance to play again, as for me, it felt I had to continue at SWPL or there wasn’t really anything for me. “
“I contacted the club and volunteered to start a women’s kick about thinking that if we can get maybe 8 players we can do a wee 4 a-side programme. We have 42 women coming along and had to extend the time for it. I feel like I am part of the “changing room” again with all the women who come along. Some have never kicked a ball before and some have played at a high level but we are all women supporting women to play the beautiful game at the level we want too. It’s about supporting fitness levels, each others mental health and creating lifelong friendships.”
“Since we started a few of the daughters wanted to get involved so we added an U7s programme to Panmure Girls and now all our other halves have started a mens recreational kick about on a Saturday night. My partner is the manager of a rival Junior club and is having to come to terms with how much Panmure kit is in our house with all the new programmes our whole family is involved in.“
Since Phil McGuire came in to the club, we have spoken several times about an Elite Women’s side and Sam believes that anything is possible.
“For me, anything can work if there is a vision, a plan and a real drive for people wanting to make it work. The elite level in women’s football is now exceptionally hard to compete with, especially with the resources that the likes of Rangers, Celtic etc are putting into the game. It would be great to see a full pathway into the women’s game for all the younger female players in the club.”
The SWPL has been an undoubted success and our final question was to ask if the SWPL blueprint is the answer to making the men’s game more sustainable.
“I think the game always has an opportunity to continuing evolving and developing. It is great to see a lot of the mens clubs now investing in their women’s team which has supported the SWPL a lot over the years. The women’s game is a developing sport so can try out different formats to see what areas work and what areas can be developed. For me, as a sport we should always look to develop and evolve at all levels of the game.”
We will keep you posted on development but meantime thanks to Sam for her time and help