Is a changing climate making summer football in Australia an impossibility?

Politicians who deny the obvious reality that the climate is constantly changing are few and far between. Tensions do arise when the reasons behind the changes become the topic of conversation. Such disagreement around that point does not require exploration on Soccerscene.com.au.

However, what does require some though and reflection is the decision to play Australia’s top tiers of both men’s and women’s football during the summer months. It was a no-brainer when it came to the W-League, with a mirroring of the men’s competition and the potential for double-headers and cross promotion informing the decision.

Therefore, the powers at be made the logical choice to play the elite women’s competition at the same time of year as the men, amidst the stifling summer heat that appears to only intensify as the decades roll by.

Australian men’s football had its origins in the winter months until the decision was made to shift the then NSL competition to summer in the season of 1989/90. It was a dramatic change and one that many saw as having great potential due to football avoiding direct competition with the nation’s more established and ingrained winter codes.

Others feared the move, the heat and the potential cultural change that it would bring to fans of clubs that had existed in a steady winter routine within which they were quite comfortable.

The thinking behind the move was not only to disassociate football from other domestic codes. Matching the Australian season with European competitions would eventually see transfer windows align and allow for greater fluidity of movement for players.

Furthermore, international windows would coincide, Australia could compete in future World Cups without detrimental impact on the local scene and quite ironically, the thinking was that fans would enjoy matches in more pleasant weather, outside the wet and sodden coldness of winter.

How the thinking on weather and climate has turned since the final days of the 20th Century.

Increasingly hot conditions over the last 10 years and a clear rise in average temperatures has led many to call for a return to winter for both the A and W Leagues. Those voices cite health risks and potential disaster for players, officials and fans.

Drinks breaks and some flexibility in kick-off times exist as contingency plans, however, 40 degree Celsius days that ease off to 35 degree evenings offer players little respite from the heat. Most importantly, the standard of football is tested under such conditions and there is an obvious and negative impact to the product in both leagues.

Season 2019/20 has had the added challenge of smoke and ash from the bush fires that have ravaged the eastern and southern parts of the nation. Adelaide United fans called out the A-League and FFA after those with the power to alter a kick-off time were reluctant to do so.

The Red’s active support group threatened to boycott matches should the situation arise again.

Fans have also stayed away in Sydney and Melbourne with a throat scratching haze decreasing the pleasure and enjoyment of attending a football match. The challenge of boarding public transport in extreme late afternoon conditions to ensure arrival at the venue for a 7 or 7:30pm kick-off has also led to many staying away.

An increasing number of fans of the A and W Leagues have been content to watch matches at a local hotel or in their own home.

Whilst an outlier season of heat and oppressive conditions might not be enough to convince many that a move back to winter is required. The consistency of temperature increases and a sustained pattern has many starting to think twice about when Australian football should be played.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has found that 2019 was indeed the warmest year on record. The data also confirms that all states and the Northern Territory experienced both maximum and minimum temperature records and rainfall across the country was 40% below average levels.

It made for the driest year on record and led to much of the dry fuel that saw more than 11 million hectares destroyed across the nation.

That pattern has seen summer footballers roast in the highest average decade (2010-2019) of mean temperatures on record. 2019 saw maximum temperatures reach 2.09 degrees above historical averages and the current summer stands to be another in a long line of record breaking seasons.

In my view, Australian football works better in the summer months, for many of the reasons outlined above. However, should such weather patterns persist, as the experts suggest they will, further questions around the viability of holding football competitions in Australia during summer will continue to be asked.

There will indeed be a tipping point and player health and safety will potentially be the deal breaker that eventually sees matches postponed until conditions are conducive to playing football.

Playing the game in summer had immense upside but a changing climate looms as a serious threat to the move.

Staff Writer
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Federal Budget commits $97 million investment for sport programs

The 2024-25 Federal Budget, which was released on Tuesday night, includes more than $97 million over two years to the ASC to extend Sporting Schools, the Local Sporting Champions, and Local Para Champions programs, and participation funding to help more Australians get active.

This two-year extension runs until 30 June 2026 and helps kids of all different sports afford an opportunity to play at a local level if they come from and under privileged background.

Football Australia is a part of the Sporting Schools program, with each state offering participation Officers and local clubs that are ready to implement in-school and after-school programs for students of ages up to Year 8, plus all abilities programs.

Football Australia use this program to link local football clubs with schools to facilitate an ongoing relationship and provide further opportunity for students to continue their football journey outside of school, whether that be MiniRoos Kick Off, MiniRoos Club or Junior Football.

More than 24,000 young Australians will be supported with the Local Sporting Champions (LSC) and Local Para Champions (LSP) grants programs continuing for a further two years.

These are fantastic programs that have supported Australia’s best athletes including many Matildas like Courtney Nevin, Cortnee Vine, Alex Chidiac, Teagan Micah and Clare Hunt.

World Cup veteran’s Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter also rose to success with assistance from the LSC program throughout their junior careers.

Australian Sports Commission CEO Kieren Perkins OAM mentions the importance of this investment to continue critical national sporting programs.

“Once again, I want to thank Minister Wells and the Australian Government for their continued support and investment in Australian sport,” Perkins said in a statement.

“This funding extends critical sport participation programs like the Participation Grant program and Sporting Schools which provides free and fun sporting opportunities to more than two million students each year.

“This follows last week’s announcement of $249.7 million to upgrade the AIS Campus to ensure our athletes have access to the world’s best testing and training facilities, and accommodation ahead of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

This is a fantastic initiative that will benefit football amongst other sports and has a history of helping kids of all skill levels play in their respective sport.

The Federal Budget have put in almost $350 to improve sport, mostly around the 2032 Olympic Games but it is great to see some investment in the world game after the huge success of the Women’s World Cup last year.

The biggest Female Football Week to date draws to a close

Female Football week is at its climax across the country with each respective state firmly involved in what has been a monumental year of growth and perseverance with one of the hottest topics amongst the sporting plethora across the nation.

Symbolising the significant strides in which female football has made down under, off the back of its maiden World Cup hosting tenure.

Football Queensland throughout the grand occasion were busy shining a spotlight upon the continuous growth of participation, encouraging women of all ages to become involved and immersed within the global game.

Football Victoria – Commentary

Football Victoria (FV) celebrated women’s football week in style.

Round 8 of the National Premier League Women’s (NPLW) competition within Victoria was unique throughout its coverage, with every match throughout the round featuring a female commentator.

A monumental feat spearheaded by the FV Commentary team, this was the first time an all female commentary round was executed.

Football Queensland

FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci disclosed his appreciation for the momentous occasion via the FQ website.

“While celebrations like FFW serve as a crucial milestone in FQ’s journey towards achieving 50/50 gender parity by 2027 and helps to further reinforce our commitment to enhancing accessibility and inclusivity, our support is not confined to this week, as we remain dedicated to prioritising our female football community year-round.”

Football Queensland – Award Ceremony

Paying homage to Referees, Club Volunteers, Players and Community Champions of the year was conducted through awards up for grabs.

FQ showcased an award ceremony towards multiple facets of football throughout the state.

A nice incentive dedicated to the recognition and appraisal of the hard work undertaken by different areas of football.

The Female Football Week club of the year was awarded to Central Football Club following their extraordinary contribution to female football within Queensland.

Displayed throughout the clubs commitment to female football, the club are fully dedicated to the advancement of women’s football.

Harvesting a fostering environment throughout the club, alongside the nourishment of young promising female footballers has been symbolised by FQ.

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