The fixtures for the 2021/22 Scottish Women’s Premier League season are out and feature Aberdeen versus Celtic in the first match day on 5 September.
The newly expanded SWPL 1 will see ten teams play each other three times over the campaign, while SWPL 2 will still feature eight teams in 2021/22 but will be expanded to ten in 2022/23, with two teams promoted from the Championship.
The opening round of SWPL 1 fixtures will see reigning champions Glasgow City at home to Motherwell. Both teams will be under new management with Grant Scott the interim Head Coach at Glasgow City and Paul Brownlie having been appointed Head Coach of Motherwell in May. It will also see Leanne Crichton, who left Glasgow City to take up a player/coach role at Motherwell, potentially play her first league match in claret and amber against her former side.
One of the biggest ties of the first round will see SWPL 2 champions, Aberdeen, welcome SWPL 1 runners-up, Celtic. Aberdeen comfortably picked up the SWPL 2 title last season, securing back-to-back promotions in their return to the top flight of women’s football. However, they welcome a Celtic side who will be hoping to go one step further in 2021/22 as they look to build on the success of last season under Fran Alonso.
Promoted alongside Aberdeen was Hamilton Academical, who face a trip to Edinburgh to take on Heart of Midlothian. Hamilton earned promotion on the final day of the season to return to the top flight after relegation in 2018. They meet a Hearts team that will be under the new management of Eva Olid after the departure of Andy Kirk. The Jambos finished bottom of the table last season, so this will be an early test for both sides.
There will also be a test for new Forfar Farmington manager, Eddie Wolecki Black. The former Glasgow City, Celtic, and Motherwell boss will take his side to face Rangers where Forfar lost 11-0 in their last match there. Rangers have strengthened their side as they look to push for the title after they finished third last season. In one of the biggest moves of the summer they’ve signed Scotland Women’s National Team forward, Jane Ross after six years playing in England.
The final match in SWPL 1 is an Edinburgh derby as Hibernian are at home to Spartans. After a disappointing season compared to previous years, Hibs welcome a number of new players to the club including Finish forward, Emma Heikkilä, and Americans Alexa Coyle, Toni Malone, and Gabby English. They’ve also signed midfielder, Michaela McAlonie, who could make her league debut for Hibs against her former side. At Spartans, they have announced their first ever semi-professional players in the form of Alana Marshall, Rachel Harrison, and Robyn McCafferty. Head Coach, Debbi McCulloch, stated this was the direction the club was moving in and is a significant step in their quest to compete with the top clubs.
In SWPL 2, it’s set to be an even more competitive 2021/22 season.
The league winners will gain promotion to SWPL 1 while the runners-up will face the side finishing ninth in SWPL 1 in a one-legged play-off match for promotion. The side finishing bottom in SWPL 2 will be relegated this season and be replaced by the winner of the promotion play-off match between the runners-up in Championship North and South.
In the opening round of fixtures there’s a Glasgow derby as Partick Thistle host Queen’s Park. Thistle finished third last season as they narrowly missed out on promotion to SWPL 1 on the final day. Brian Graham’s side will hope to go one further in 2021/22. In contrast, Queen’s Park struggled with injuries when the season restarted in June and slumped down the table to finish ninth. They are also looking for a new Head Coach after the departure of Mark Kirk.
The other side who went into the final day of the season with a chance of promotion was Dundee United, who eventually finished fourth. They are already looking to push on after strengthening their side with the signings of Erin Cattanach and Cassie Cowper from Forfar Farmington. They are at home to Stirling University on the opening day who finished bottom of the table. Under Head Coach Tim Jones, Stirling University were much improved when the season restarted and picked up seven points after only having two from their previous 10 games.
Separated by just two points last season was sixth placed Kilmarnock and seventh placed Glasgow Women who meet on the opening day. The Glasgow side are at home and will look to build on their final day 3-2 victory against Queen’s Park. While Kilmarnock lost 3-0 in their last game against Hamilton Academical, they were much improved in the restart. They picked up 13 points from eight games from a season total of 22 points and will hope to continue that form.
The final game in SWPL 2 is Boroughmuir Thistle at home to St Johnstone. The away side finished fifth last season, 10 points clear of Boroughmuir in eighth but 13 points away from promotion with eight wins, one draw, and nine losses. Boroughmuir will be hoping to cement their place within the SWPL after completing their first full season and finishing six points clear of bottom.
Scottish Women’s Football Chair, Vivienne MacLaren, told womenspremierleague.co.uk: “We’re delighted to confirm the fixtures for the SWPL season ahead. Both leagues came down to the wire last season and everyone is excited for league football to return.
“It’s hard to imagine SWPL being more competitive but the move to expand both leagues to 10 teams is very positive. Both Aberdeen and Hamilton Academical were deservingly promoted and will add new dynamics to SWPL 1. While SWPL 2 will feature eight teams this season, I have no doubt it will remain one of the most competitive leagues in Scottish football and will look forward to welcoming three new Championship teams in 2022/23.”
2021/22 will also likely see fans return to matches across the board after some clubs being able to open their doors to spectators last season.
“I’m sure players, teams, clubs, and club officials will be excited by the return of fans to SWPL matches, continued MacLaren. “Throughout the last 18 months, the priority for SWF has been the safety of those involved in our game whilst also working to ensure the visibility of our game grows. We feel we’ve accomplished this and want to continue that in 2021/22 whilst also welcoming fans back to matches.”