THE World Cup in France will dominate women's football in Scotland for the first six months of the year, and the tournament is one of the reasons why the domestic season is starting earlier than usual this afternoon and not concluding until the end of November.

The other is the Uefa Women's Under-19 Championship, which Scotland is hosting for the first time in July. Both events will raise the profile of the sport, but will make it a very difficult year for club coaches and players with no league fixtures between May 19 and August 4.

Clubs will have to make the best of this massive disruption to a so-called summer season and in SWPL1, Glasgow City will be aiming for yet another record - 13 titles in a row - while a competitive SWPL2 features Dundee United and Partick Thistle for the first time.

It can't be denied that the exodus of top players, to England in particular, is having an effect on the quality of the domestic game. Hibernian lost three more key personnel last month, taking the total to eight since last summer. By contrast Glasgow City are relatively unscathed, with the departure of Abbi Grant to Anderlecht the only significant difference.

As City also have five players, including the experienced Jo Love and Hayley Lauder, who will hope to be in Shelley Kerr's World Cup squad, they have to start as title favourites – a mantle Hibs might have held had it not been for last month's events. City have also held on to Bosnia vice-captain Lidija Kulis and Slovenian striker Lara Ivanusa, while captain Leanne Ross remains as inspirational and hungry for success as ever.

Most of the intrigue in the close season has been around Celtic. They are not now expected to expand on their plans to go full time until after the World Cup, but that didn't stop Eddie Wolecki Black making unsuccessful bids to sign several high-profile Scotland players over the winter.

All of these players – including Abi Harrison and Rachel McLauchlan, who instead left Hibs for Bristol City and Yeovil Town – indicated to Wolecki Black that they did not regard SWPL1 as a suitable environment to further their careers and purse their World Cup aspirations.

“There seems to be a common thread that the best players will not sign here because they don't want to play in this league,” Wolecki Black said. “I've spoken to several top level players and their agents, and that's the reply I've been getting.”

It is understood McLauchlan rejected a move despite being offered better terms at Celtic than Yeovil. Two other more established Scottish internationalists who are at FA WSL teams also indicated that a return to SWPL1 football with Celtic didn't interest them.

In these circumstances Wolecki Black says more Scottish clubs need to follow Celtic's lead and provide full time football in order to provide a more enticing environment for top players. Otherwise, he says, the club may eventually apply to join the FA WSL if it is the only way they can recruit at the required level.

There is a precedent for that, as in 2012 Uefa gave the go-ahead to a BeNe League involving the top clubs in Belgium and Holland. It ran for three seasons before the clubs returned to their national leagues.

In the shorter term, Celtic's aim must be to close the gap on the top two. They finished a distant third again last season, 20 points behind runners-up Hibs.

“Glasgow City and Hibs have both lost their top goalscorers,” Wolecki Black pointed out of the Grant and Harrison departures. “We'll certainly give it a go. I think the league will be very competitive and I do see us as being one of the challengers.”

Celtic are at home to Forfar Farmington today, Rangers host Glasgow City,and Spartans and Hibs meet on each other's home ground of Ainslie Park.

Newly promoted Motherwell, who dropped the “Ladies” part of their name on Friday - leaving Hibs as the only SWPL1 club still with it - play Stirling University at Fir Park.