Government facilities investment needs to keep up as Women’s Asian Cup looms

In recent times, Football Australia released their ‘Legacy 23 report’ on the Women’s World Cup which was held in Australia and New Zealand last July.

Sarah Walsh – Head of Women’s Football, World Cup Legacy and Inclusion at Football Australia – reflected on the impact of the Matildas after the release of the Legacy report. The Matildas have been at the forefront of transformative societal change, challenging perceptions and gender stereotypes while advocating for sustained evolution within the Australian and international sporting landscape.

“The Legacy ‘23 post-tournament report delves into the success achieved in leveraging the tournament, however, emphasises the need for increased funding to ensure that the legacy of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 isn’t merely a momentary triumph, but evolves into foundations for a thriving, equitable, and dynamic future for football,” Walsh stated.

The numbers revealed in the report were quite staggering. The document stated that the World Cup had generated a $1.32 billion impact on the economy – with over 86,000 visitors to Australia contributing strongly to that figure.

1,288,175 tickets were sold to Australian based matches, with a global television viewership of almost two billion people.

The event itself played a hugely significant role in promoting physical exercise and well-being across the nation with an estimated $324 million reduction in healthcare costs due to this increased activity in the community.

A key part of the ‘Legacy 23’ plan from the FA was to garner increased government investment in facilities – due to the expected boom of popularity in the sport after hosting a World Cup on home shores.

Football Australia unlocked more than $398 million in federal and state government funding for ‘Legacy 23’ related projects. $129 million of the total funds also positively benefitted other sports – due to facility upgrades to stadiums such as Perth Rectangular Stadium, Brisbane Stadium, Melbourne Rectangular Stadium and the La Trobe Sports Precinct in Melbourne.

Due to the Matildas’ success, and FA’s advocacy, the Australian government contributed $200 million to the ‘Play Our Way’ grant program. This is Australia’s biggest comprehensive investment in women’s sports, with funding to address participation barriers through safe, inclusive and sustainable facilities and programs.

While the allocation of the investment between sports for this grant program has not been made public, football must be at the forefront for a large portion of this funding with a home Women’s Asian Cup on the horizon.

According to FA’s ‘Legacy 23’ report, under 20% of the $398 million worth of government funding was invested into community facilities.

“There remains a significant deficiency in facility investment across pivotal states that demands urgent attention,” FA’s report read.

“As participation demands increase, the strain on existing facilities within the 2,400+ clubs nationwide, already at saturation levels, requires immediate attention from all levels of government—federal, state, and local.

“Addressing this gap is essential to meet the expected surge in participation, improve the experience and retention rate for women and girls on our journey to the national 50:50 target, and continue fostering the wide-ranging benefits that football provides to its community of over 2 million people.

“It will therefore be crucial that grassroots football club facility upgrades materially benefit from the Play Our Way grant program.”

The AFC Women’s Football Committee recently recommended Australia as the host country for the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup – essentially earmarking another monumental football tournament to be held in our backyard.

According to Australian Financial Review, Football Australia is expecting up to half a million attendees for the event, with visitor/organisation expenditure of between $115 and $140 million, making it the biggest female edition of all time.

With the tournament just two years away, it is essential that further grassroots facility investment is allocated by government parties as the demand and popularity of the sport will continue to grow at a significant rate.

FA claims the Asian Cup represented “a crucial platform to advance the goals outlined in the ‘Legacy 23’, particularly in addressing the shortfall in football facility investment.”

“Australia is ready, one of the most multicultural societies in the world, with over 300 different ancestries and almost 20% of our nation’s population having ties back to countries that comprise the Asian Football Confederation, meaning every team that visits our shores will have a ‘home away from home’ feeling,” the report said.

“This esteemed Asian football tournament provides an ideal platform for all tiers of government to employ football as a tool for effectively implementing sports diplomacy and tourism strategies within Asia.”

The governing body believes there is an overall $2.9 billion facility gap to bring grassroots facilities in line to an acceptable level.

They won’t get anywhere near that level of investment from government authorities immediately, but considerably more must be invested before Asia’s biggest female sporting event comes to our shores.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Southside Eagles FC acquire significant facility grant

Southside Eagles FC have received a grant from Football Queensland and the Queensland Government, in a collaborative effort driving for more inclusivity amongst sport across the state.

The Club where entitled to the grant given their strategic facility development team making an application in which correlated with Football Queensland’s ideologies.

The healthy grant of $293,000 was publicised on the official Instagram page.

“We are excited to bring a more inclusive football experience to our Cannon Hill facility to enable us to continue to grow our female football section at the Southside Eagles,” the statement read.

Southside Eagles FC are based in the Brisbane suburb of Bulimba. Founded in 1968, the Eagles were founded upon the merging of the two former Queensland based clubs, Germani and Southside Belmont.

Germanic where a club within Brisbane throughout the 1950s in who where supported by Brisbane’s extensive German community. In 1962, Germania had won Brisbane’s second tier of football but faced relegation a season later. There tenure within Brisbane football prior to their overnight success and failure remained in that fashion until merging with Southside Belmont Soccer Club, who were predominantly a junior club. Germania absorbed the struggling Southside in 1968, however the club was name to its current Southside Eagles was changed in 1972 as  part of Football Queensland’s drive to separate ethnic name titles away from clubs.

Despite their form never recovering following its strength shown in the 1970s, fast forward 47 years later and their impact upon football within the state remained widely recognised, given their invitation to participate in the Football Queensland Premier League from its initial season in 2017.

It’s always heartwarming to see governing bodies acknowledging a club reliant upon its volunteers, who wish to grow in capacity not for financial gain – for the greater support and encouragement of football across a nation where it’s passion can not be relented.

Robert Cavallucci discusses important Perry Park upgrade

FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci recently featured on an episode of The Subs Bench podcast to discuss an improved stadium in Brisbane in a bid to grow the game further.

Football Queensland and Football Australia’s push to upgrade the state’s spiritual home of football, Perry Park, has been a hot topic of discussion for a good amount of time.

In a submission to a federal inquiry into Australia’s preparedness to host the Olympic Games, Football Australia called for an upgrade of Perry Park to become a 10 or 15,000 seat stadium with improved internal facilities.

Cavallucci discussed why this upgrade needs to be completed following the rise of the games popularity.

“The question should be, does football require a more appropriate stadium that reflects its needs? Absolutely it does,” he said on The Subs Bench podcast.

“The city and the state needs a football appropriate that reflects football’s very unique requirements and the fact we don’t have one is symptomatic of 20 or 30 years of failure as a code to actively advocate for our needs. Thats obviously changing dramatically and very quickly.

“Perry Park obviously has a lot of suitable elements, it’s in the inner city, which is perfect, it’s on a train line which is even better, it’s on major road infrastructure. You can access it from everywhere and very quickly.

“Importantly it links in with the broader sporting spine on those train lines so you can get from there to Suncorp to the Gabba and get to Perry Park from all those places.”

Cavallucci added that this upgrade is necessary for the sport to advance in the state and shed light on how it would affect all tiers of the football pyramid.

“There’s no question it’s been on our top three infrastructure priorities for four years and we’re absolutely putting in significant work to eventually bring that to life,” he said.

“It’s important for the code and it’s important for not only professional and semi-professional levels but it’s important for women’s football but also the A-League expansion as well.

“We should have a second Brisbane team; it will absolutely mobilise a broader fanbase. It can only be brought into life if we have appropriate infrastructure.”

With the Olympics a hot topic at the moment and FQ’s push to secure more funding for a second top rectangular stadium, it will be an interesting talking point that the government will have to consider to help progress football in the region.

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