Dr Shona Bass delivers powerful speech outlining the growth of women’s football in Australia

Dr Shona Bass

In the recent Football Victoria Community in Business (FVCIB) Half-Time Luncheon, Football Victoria Hall of Famer and Matilda cap #2 Dr Shona Bass delivered a powerful speech about the history of women’s football in Australia – before the Matildas embark on a huge step forward when the nation co-hosts the FIFA Women’s World Cup with New Zealand.

The domestic and international successes have included the introduction of the W-League in 2008 as well as The Matildas becoming AFC Asian Cup champions in 2010. The women’s game in Australia is only progressing further in the current day and this World Cup will bring millions of new eyes to the Matildas team and their culture.

Shona Bass, originally from Greensborough in Victoria, was part of a group of pioneers in 1974 who started a state competition with enough teams for two divisions – western and eastern.

In 1979, history was made when The Australian Women’s National Team competed in their first ever ‘A’ international, facing Trans-Tasman opponents New Zealand. Shona Bass was part of the 16-women squad who participated.

No governments were willing to pay an expense for the women’s teams to travel abroad, one of the major obstacles that Shona mentioned in her recent speech.

She worked multiple jobs in order to pay for the privilege of putting on the Australian shirt and it was symptomatic of the troubles they faced earlier in the development of women’s football a decade earlier.

Eventually, Bass would be involved in coaching and player development and was studying for a career in teaching at the time.

“Being a full-time footballer as a woman in Australia at the time was beyond dreaming,” she explained in the speech.

Bass outlined the importance of taking a stand and progressing the game for women in order to create the current environment that has allowed them to co-host the World Cup.

“There have been key pivotal moments in Australian Women’s football, and my own journey, and its those things that bring us to the world stage right now,” she said.

Bass summarised her speech by explaining that how against all the odds and disapproval from the men in the 70’s, they were able to create a force and change for women.

She also mentioned that the courage to make mistakes, persistence to pick themselves up from major obstacles and a healthy group of advocates by her side were the main reasons for their overall success in building a foundation for the next generation of women to progress.

It’s the three C’s that were vital in her journey; Choice, Chance, and Change.

“I cherish the strong women contributors who tirelessly invested and supported the women who played the game, and the game itself,” Bass said.

“You must make a choice to take a chance, or your life will never change.”

The growth of the game has grown exponentially over the last 25 years in particular, with the 1999 Women’s World Cup marking a stepping stone in how the players were treated.

Australia still did not have much attention and respect, with the Matildas forced to train with second-hand equipment from the Socceroos, not getting paid and with very few games to play. However after that event, the 2000 Sydney Olympics provided them with a great chance to leap forward into the mainstream, and they took advantage of that opportunity.

Even in the current day, with the excitement, sold-out crowds, and parades around the country, there has been a lack of a real media push or presence through advertisements to sell the event as something even bigger than what it already is. A talking point that highlights there is still a long way to go in the progress of making the Matildas a household name in the country.

There is absolutely no doubt that the roaring success of the Matildas in this century would not have been possible if it was not for some of the amazing and inspirational people that brought the women’s game out of decades of obscurity in the 1970’s, with Shona Bass being one of them. Her hall of fame status in Football Victoria ranks as a symbol of her impact.

Football Queensland releases positive 2023 Annual Report including strong participation numbers

Football Queensland (FQ) have released their 2023 Annual Report which suggests state-wide growth in all areas and shows the strides it has made in its long-term strategic development across the state.

Football Queensland had a plan in 2020 to stabilise and grow its financial performances across the short-term future and were able to do that to full effect in 2023.

FQ delivered a record total revenue of $20,016,537 ($8.8m in 2020), and net assets of $5.3m, with a cumulative surplus of $2.5m.

In recent years, FQ has actively sought to diversify the organisation’s revenue streams by targeting growth in commercial income which this year saw an impressive 267% increase.

This placed downward pressure on registration fees which were reduced by nearly 30% in 2022.

As expected, a major influence in the increase of participation was the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup that inspired many around the country.

Football Queensland reported an 11.1% increase in state-wide participation post-FWWC23.

Football in Queensland is thriving, with 308 clubs and more than 300,000 players in 2023, the game stands as the state’s largest team and club-based participation sport, delivering significant social and community benefits both on and off the field.

For the first time ever, the Grand Finals of NPL Queensland and FQPL 1 Men and Women competitions were played at Suncorp Stadium which provided a platform to showcase Queensland’s top footballers on the prestigious stage.

As a result of this historic season, the digital broadcast reach and live stream viewership also experienced significant growth in 2023, particularly for the women’s competitions which recorded a viewership increase of 231.34%.

FQ have an ongoing commitment to promote women and girls in football, with dedicated programs and activations in place to reach their 50/50 gender parity goal by 2027.

In 2023, women & girls participation grew 8% on 2022 with a total of 31,239 outdoor club-based female players involved.

MiniRoos Club Girls growth was 5% with over 43,000 participants in 2023 providing an insight into how bright the future is in the state for women’s football.

There was a 28% increase in female coaches in 2023 across all different levels with development a key target for FQ.

Futsal participation had a 28% increase as well with FQ cracking over 10,000 participants for the first time.

FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci explained the encouraging numbers from the report and spoke on the future vision of FQ.

“2023 was another huge year for football in Queensland, as we worked to continue the momentum and success of the initiatives outlined in FQ’s 2023-2026 One Football Strategic plan which delivered a clear and comprehensive framework to foster growth of the game,” he said in a statement.

“Football Queensland has outlined our bold target of 50/50 gender parity in participation by 2027 and already in the first quarter of 2024 we have seen a remarkable 44% growth in outdoor female players.

“While we can attribute some of this success to the amplification effect of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, FQ’s strategic commitment and deployment of initiatives and programs in the lead up and post the event have played a crucial role in capturing and funnelling this growth in demand for our game.

“As we continue to record strong growth across the state and strive to meet the demands of our current base, it is absolutely critical that we as a governing body continue to advocate strongly for infrastructure investment in our game at a local, state and federal level on behalf of our clubs and participants.

“FQ launched multiple brand-new tournaments in 2023 to continue to strengthen the connected football pyramid, linking FQPL football tiers and maximising competitive opportunities for players, including the Kappa Pro Series and the expanded Mitre FQPL Champions League.

“The new futsal pyramid announced in 2023 aims to unify the delivery of futsal products, including the launch of the new Queensland Futsal Cup which provides further pathways for Queensland players to strive for national success.

“FQ’s ongoing focus on coach and referee support and development led to six Queensland match officials being named in the inaugural intake of the Football Australia Referee Academy, as well as the delivery of 223 coaching courses to over 2,800 attendees.

“On behalf of Football Queensland, I’d like to acknowledge the support of our Football Queensland team, Football Australia, State and Local Governments and our official partners throughout 2023, who contributed to a year marked by many historic milestones for our game.”

There are plenty of positives to come out of a year that has shaped the future of women’s football and participation in Queensland.

Queensland showed its ability to host the Women’s World Cup and will get a chance again in 2026 with the Women’s Asian Cup in a bid hopefully to again use the momentum to surge participation growth and their financial stability.

You can read the Annual Report in full here.

Football Victoria to tackle violence prevention through grants

$1.2 million has been allocated on behalf of Football Victoria (FV) towards the “Preventing Violence through Sports Grants Program”, for the continuation of 12 community-based sporting projects across the state to occur.

As confirmed by Prevention of Family Violence Minister Vicki Ward, and Community Sport Ministers Ros Spence, it will ensure that football has its place within the community.

Each respective minister will strive towards the mitigation and resolution of violence amongst families.

A supportive body under the umbrella of Football Victoria, Victorian University and Regional Sport Victoria, is a designated support team designated towards the installation of projects addressing structural and cultural hurdles experienced by multicultural communities, females and non-binary people through the participation of sports.

Football Victoria’s involvement within the Change Makers supportive initiative is exercised frequently. Within the football community, it is imperative that inclusivity is at the forefront upon all aspects for football to be a game for all to enjoy, succeed and prosper within.

The programs in which FV offer in collaboration with Change Makers are commonly in the prevention of violence. Changing attitudes, behaviours and patterns all correlated with violence are implemented in order to build a safer football community. In which has the prosperity to have further change upon a wider community.

Executive Manager of Equity, Growth, and Inclusion at Football Victoria, Karen Pearce OAM emphasised the need for additional funding to support their ongoing efforts said via press release:

“We are indebted to the Victorian Government’s funding, so we can continue to persist in producing enabling environments through education and training delivered in partnership with Victorian University and Regional Sport Victoria, and not lose the momentum of gains already achieved,” she said.

“As an organisation, we have learnt that all our equity work must be overlaid with a primary prevention approach that establishes the expectation that gender equality must be considered and prioritised in all current and future planning, service delivery and practice.”

Fiona McLachlan, Associate Director Research Training at Victoria University, celebrated the news.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Football Victoria to support their sector-leading gender equity work. We have made a very conscious decision to work with Football Victoria for their openness to adopt research-informed and whole-of-sport approaches to preventing gender-based violence,” she added via press release.

The Change Makes program is created to assist clubs in the analysis of their environments, allowing for the identification and termination of aspects within the club that showcase inequity.

Showcased through a tangible evidence-based approach, education towards change can occur.

Furthermore, the drive in achieving gender equality can continue to drive in a forward direction throughout the analysis process.

Change makers have already established quite the presence within Victorian sport. FV, in collaboration with the supportive body, have successfully challenged and created necessary change within multiple facets of sport across the state.

Primarily, gender equality has remained at the forefront of their ongoing efforts, with the body acting as a means for change to entrenched, outdated practices the world has moved on from.

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