Goalkeeper left on the sidelines by football rules

Bonnyrigg Rose footballer Courtney McDonald pictured with Vicky Laing and Jim Wilson. Photo: Steven Scott Taylor
Bonnyrigg Rose footballer Courtney McDonald pictured with Vicky Laing and Jim Wilson. Photo: Steven Scott Taylor

A football-daft teenager has been left languishing on the sidelines by administrators who claim that their hands are tied in this “heartfelt” case.

Sixteen-year-old Bonnyrigg Rose goalkeeper Courtney McDonald suffers from right hemiplegia, which means that she struggles with stiffness in the muscles on the right-hand side of her body, affecting her balance and the flexibility in her ankle and foot joints.

It also means that last year’s player’s player of the year does not have the strength or stamina of other girls her age.

Due to her disability she has been playing with players a year or more younger than she is for several seasons.

But, despite granting special dispensation for Courtney in the past, the Scottish Women’s Football (SWF)board has said that “with this particular heartfelt request” it did not have the power to grant the application as it “fell outwith the criteria within which the board must operate when considering applications of this nature”.

The SWF board agreed to discuss changing the criteria at its AGM in February.

“Our argument is that Courtney’s situation is different as she has a disability,” said Courtney’s coach, Jim Wilson.

“The rules don’t facilitate for disabilities.

“However, we referred to the SFA equality policy which is clear that we should be catering for all.

“The SWF are not catering for Courtney here. It should be up to Courtney when she decides to stop playing football.

“The SFA disability officer has asked the SWF to let Courtney play until their AGM but he has not heard back.

“We have now written to the Scottish Minister for Equalities, asking her to take the SWF to task on this.

“I have asked Stewart Regan at the SFA for his thoughts, as he is ultimately responsible for this, given that SWF is under the SFA’s remit. I have had no response.

“Everybody is running away from this.

“We have the support of every team in the league.

“They all said they have no problem about Courtney playing and that there would be no dispute from them.

“We have told SWS about this also.

“Common sense clearly prevailed two years ago. But the only thing that has changed since then is the members of the board.

“Something is clearly wrong here. We just think it’s absolutely bizarre.

“The lack of responses has just added to our frustration.

“We are not prepared to let it go.”

A statement from SWF said: “We have not seen anything from the SFA disability officer so we cannot comment on this.

“We would like to see his advice to the club and are happy to speak to them at any time.

“And we have been given no evidence that all the clubs support the fact that Courtney should play.

“We would like to see this.”