Edinburgh AC celebrate title triumph

Kirsty Maguire. Picture: Getty Images
Kirsty Maguire. Picture: Getty Images
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It is no accident that Edinburgh AC won the UK Women’s League Premier Division title for the first time since 2006 and ahead of six English clubs and one Welsh club in London at the weekend.

A great deal of planning and fund-raising by the whole club has gone into the success which cost at least £5000 for this one trip alone and can be summed up by one word: “teamwork”.

Now the club, who have no major sponsor, face another huge task to fund-raise for next May’s European Club Championships in Portugal.

But already the athletes are enthusiastically offering to do car-washes and other ventures “to get into Europe.”

There was a delicious irony about the Scottish triumph over some of the biggest and wealthiest clubs in the country, some of which are known to offer their athletes signing-on fees, free memberships and even pay on results with cash for points.

While the details of each athlete’s arrangements are not known and there is no suggestion that these clubs are doing anything illegal, it does not take much imagination to appreciate why some Scots athletes fly these “flags of convenience” in preference to competing for their own or another Scottish club and now two of the biggest clubs, Shaftesbury Barnet (London) and Sale Harriers (City of Manchester) have been relegated.

Capital jumps coach John Scott, however, believes that they cannot buy club loyalty: “If things are free they are taken for granted,” he insists.

John’s wife Anne has been Edinburgh team manager for more than 20 years, first for Edinburgh Southern and since for the combined Edinburgh AC and John believes she and her assistant Moira Maguire, the former Commonwealth Games high jump medallist, are due much of the credit.

“The fact is the girls want to compete for them because of the structure. We have better and continuous team management and they all want to compete for the points despite paying out between £30 and £50 each time they compete.

“The girls travel together along with a number of coaches for their events and also the club officials we have to provide for each meeting (who pay their own way too). They get their transport (flying where possible), a good 
hotel and a meal on arrival – we’ve even got one or two girls from England joining us,” he said, insisting there were 
no financial inducements. “They’re buying into the system our girls have made them feel welcome.”

Yorkshire throws all-rounder Hannah Evenden, Gateshead’s 400m hurdler Sam Colby, who can also throw the javelin, and triple jumper Emma Pringle, were three crucial points-scorers for Edinburgh at Bromley.

Typical of the dedication displayed by the athletes and their families and friends was the effort of polevaulter Kirsty Maguire, who combines her athletics with her work as a paediatrician – she helped 
the mother of sprinter Nicola Sanders who was hit by a javelin in the calf at Bromley – after her boyfriend dropped her off at Edinburgh Airport 
to join the team and then drove through the night to take 
her pole onward to London.

So the future looks bright for the club, with Team Edinburgh through to the UK final of the new UK Young Athletes Development League, even though the structure of that league and the four matches involved 
has added drastically to the cost.

The one sad note is that Edinburgh men, who won the British Cup in 1975, the same year as the women completed the double, languish in the wilderness while Glasgow City men have risen through the ranks to reach division one, with the Premiership beckoning.

For Edinburgh to join them would take a ten-year plan, and probably even then there would be too many problems to compete effectively given the number of English men’s clubs paying their athletes, including Scots.