IT’S more than 20 years since Ginny Clark became the first woman to be appointed sports editor of a national newspaper in the UK. As an assistant editor at Scotsman Publications at that time, it was my responsibility to find a new chief for Scotland on Sunday’s hugely influential sports section when this prized position became available.

I felt that a part of my job was always to be aware of the talent on rival newspapers, including the production journalists who designed the pages, managed the stories and pictures and ensured the paper was put to bed intact before the printers’ deadline.

Ginny had come to my attention following a chat with Alex Gordon, the former sports editor of the Sunday Mail. Alex was a brilliant newspaper production specialist and had been a mentor to me in my early newspaper days. He had a knack for knowing within minutes if a young newspaper trainee had what it takes to survive and thrive in what was an unforgiving terrain.

He was the first to point me in the direction of Ginny, who had also worked on The Sunday Times. After several chats with other journalists who’d worked with her, it was clear she was held in the highest regard by her colleagues in a male-dominated and very macho world.

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And so, we had a meeting, Ginny and I, and I realised very quickly that our sports pages could be safely entrusted to her. Within a year, it had been voted Sports Section of the Year in the national newspaper awards under Ginny’s astute and highly professional stewardship.

At around the same time as Ginny’s appointment we also hired Moira Gordon as a football correspondent. I’d worked briefly with Moira doing shifts on the sports section of the Edinburgh Evening News and although she was relatively young to be given a staff writing position, she was a very bright and talented writer with a genuine love of football.

At this point I should say that neither of these appointments must be regarded as evidence of my having deployed a progressive and radical approach to life. I was still quite young myself and had probably been over-promoted into my lofty-sounding position.

My commitment to equality in the workplace proceeded in a raw and jaggy three-steps-forward/two-steps back kind of a way. It often faltered with as many lazy and sexist tropes, bad jokes and clumsy choices of words as most other male executives at the time.

But the morality and necessity of treating women as professional equals had been with me from the earliest days of my working life in a succession of part-time jobs where I’d been guided and tutored by a succession of very strong, gifted and kind women. It also became clear to me that many of them had been denied the promotions – and wages – their talents deserved.

More than two decades after the appointment of Ginny Clark and Moira Gordon to their jobs, I’d assumed that many women would duly have made careers as staff football writers. It’s since become clear, though, that football journalism in Scotland is a dominion absurdly dominated by mediocre men. A light has now been shone on this hick backwater by events at Sunday night’s annual awards dinner organised by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association.

The respected sports broadcaster Eilidh Barbour, a guest at the event, tweeted that she’d “never felt so unwelcome in the industry I work in than sitting at the Scottish Football Writers’ Awards. A huge reminder there is still so much to do in making our game an equal place”.

It was later revealed that she and her table had walked out of the dinner after a keynote speaker had made racist and sexist jokes during his speech. Another highly-respected journalist – Gabriella Bennett – tweeted that she, too, had felt compelled to walk out.

I’d stopped attending these occasions many years ago when it became clear that, despite having a female sports editor and female football writer, we would be unable to invite them to the table our newspaper reserved each year.

WE had been told by an office-bearer of the SFWA that the organisation operated on a strict policy of (and I quote) “there shall be nae burdz”. This led to our sports desk collectively refusing to attend the event. How could we have faced working with Moira and Ginny the day after getting hammered on expenses at an event which specifically excluded them?

Several other depressing aspects of Sunday’s event became clear in its aftermath. Not the least of these was the statement issued by the SFWA which was one of those meaningless “to anyone offended” non-apologies.

We also learned that the “nae burdz” rule continued until 2004 and that in the vote to overturn this policy, 20 football writers had wanted it to continue.

And we discovered that in a survey conducted by Women in Journalism, of 95 football staff jobs in Scotland’s print sector only four are occupied by women. Not a single woman since Ginny Clark held the reins at Scotland on Sunday has since been deemed good enough to edit a national sports section.

And it’s not as if football journalism in Scotland is so full of Hemingways and McIlvanneys that women simply can’t compete.

The current level of quality in this sector of Scottish journalism is little more than rank rotten (with a handful of honourable exceptions).

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The model of football reporting hasn’t changed in 50 years. Stories (if you can call them such) proceed on reams of meaningless quotes by a predictable array of current and former pros who stick rigidly to the same script.

They’re all still pledging, vowing, claiming and insisting. It’s replete with fake chumminess and oleaginous sentimentality as old pals back other old pals to “turn things round” or “prove the critics wrong”. It’s truly dreadful fare.

Consistently, the best football journalism in Scotland is currently to be found in the wild west of blogs and podcasts. This is where you’ll also find several talented female journalists seeking to take their initial steps into mainstream football writing. These are much more representative of the shifting demographics of football in Scotland, where more women are watching it and playing it.

There’s a level of sophistication here in analysing and interpreting tactics and coaching systems which is light-years ahead of the museums masquerading as sports sections in the mainstream media. Eventually, those whom print journalists dismiss as amateurs will become the mainstream and women will play a massive part in this.