OPINION: Southland women's football got a wakeup call on Sunday which, if not dealt with, could have a long-term detrimental affect on the future of the sport in the province.
Statistics might show that player and team numbers have improved gradually over the years but there is an issue to confront.
Southend United and Queenstown have dominated women's football in the south in recent times but are allowed to play in a 10-team competition which has only five "competitive teams" - the two mentioned plus Queens Park, Waihopai and the newly formed Southend United Development team.
Southend and Queenstown lasted just 90 minutes in the New Zealand ASB Women's Knockout Cup on Sunday as they were comprehensively eliminated 15-0 and 6-1 by Otago's elite teams Roslyn Wakari and Dunedin Technical, respectively.
To add insult, two Southland-domiciled and former local competition players, Sammy Murrell and Alex McIntosh, combined with former Queenstown player Sahara MacDonald to have a huge influence for Roslyn in their demolition of Southend.
MacDonald was scoring goals at will until she left the field injured after 30 minutes.
It is not unusual for the local competitive teams to run up cricket scores when they play the remaining five competition contenders. However, the scores are not the issue, it is the attitude that creeps into the games when teams get to a seven- or eight-goal lead and often begin to take their foot off the pedal and turn the games into a fun affair.
It is a situation which does no good for their match fitness and teamwork.
Bring on a competition where they face Northern opposition, such as Sunday, and the result becomes an embarrassment.
When the Southland competitive teams play against each other the standard of play increases dramatically and provides some quality football, most times, but even then because of the match fitness issue often they peter out with 15 or 20 minutes remaining.
Should those five teams play each other week-in and week-out, the standard must get stronger.
The solution could be to allow the remaining five to play in another division where at the end of each season the women's committee, in its review, could decide the top team is good enough to replace the bottom team in the top division for the next season.
This would open the gate for a much improved lower-rated team to progress.
Automatic promotion-relegation has the potential to lead to a return to an unbalanced league.
This subject is not new and if this contribution gets people with the accountability re-thinking the structure of women's football then it has achieved its aim.