Optus Sport is the right platform to show 2023 Women’s World Cup

Late last week, Optus Sport announced that they had secured the Australian broadcasting rights for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Optus are believed to have outbid big players such as Amazon Prime and other international streaming companies to show the global competition in two years’ time.

The news comes after another broadcast deal was recently announced among Australian football circles, with the APL signing a $200 million deal for the A-League and W-League with ViacomCBS.

In what is a major coup for the streaming platform, Optus will showcase all 64 games of a tournament which is set to be the biggest sporting event held on Australian shores since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Optus have announced however, that key matches such as all Matildas games will also be co-broadcasted on a free-to-air channel.

Overall, one match a day of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia will be shown on free-to-air.

Alongside the games, the telecommunications company will produce a range of additional digital content and programming such as preview and review shows.

The rights are a major coup for Optus and Australian football fans should be satisfied that the company is showcasing the tournament.

Optus, over the past few years, have built up a strong portfolio of football rights content in Australia which includes the English Premier League, J-League and international football tournaments like the Copa America and European Championships.

Their strong coverage and care for their product offerings shine through on their streaming platform, something which hasn’t been the case in recent years for competitions such as the A-League on Foxtel.

Yes, they did have difficulties streaming the World Cup to hundreds of thousands of viewers in 2018, but since then they have learned from their mistakes and addressed the flaws on their service.

Optus also have a notable short-term history of showcasing top tier women’s football on their service, including the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France and the FA Women’s Super League, with the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 set to also be shown in the build-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Optus Vice President of TV, Content and Product Development, Clive Dickens, believes women’s football is a core element of Optus Sport’s elite football offering, resulting in unprecedented coverage that would lead to even more Australian fans to women’s football.

“We have built an unparalleled pedigree in enhancing and supporting women’s football and building unique customer relationships with football fans, from the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 in France to being amongst the first broadcasters of the Barclay’s FA Women’s Super League, to recently securing the exclusive rights to the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 in England,” he said.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 represents a huge opportunity to help drive growth and visibility of women’s football in Australia and deliver football fans the best-ever coverage.

“We are committed to changing the future children see and the importance of promoting women in sport to drive that change. It is a privilege, and an endorsement of our credentials by FIFA, to be awarded the rights to showcase this monumental event,” Dickens concluded.

The Australian football community have responded in kind to Optus’ treatment of both men’s and women’s football, with the telco currently having over 888,000 active subscribers on their streaming platform.

Those numbers will continue to lift in the years to come, especially now that they have further invested significant funds into showing the biggest event in women’s football.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is not just a football tournament, it’s one of the world’s biggest events and to host it in Australia and New Zealand is a dream come true. Young boys and girls, mums and dads will get the chance to see their role models – the Matildas – who are amongst the best players in the world,” said former Matilda and Optus Sport pundit Heather Garriock.

Optus broadcasting the 2023 Women’s World Cup seems like a move which is good for them, but also good for football.

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.

New A-Leagues, work still to be done

Australia’s top-flight A-Leagues is back and whilst much has changed it is clear that there is still a lot of work ahead.

Australia’s top-flight football competition is back and whilst much has changed it is clear that there is still a lot of work ahead.

The clubs are no longer driving from the back seat, and they have wasted no time and spared little expense in committing to a major makeover to Australia’s top-flight competitions, A-Leagues Men and Women.

A glossy new look, an inclusive new name that bundles the premier men’s and women’s competition, sleek new graphics, a bumper free-to-air deal as well as a new streaming service and dedicated football news platforms all represent solid wins for the Australian Professional Leagues ahead of their debut season on the back of a mountain of preparation that has gone into the promotion of the competition.

Whilst only the most naïve will have expected the efforts to deliver an instant return, the sobering numbers from the opening round of the 2021/22 A-Leagues Men season demonstrate just how much work lies ahead.

Not even the gloss of all the stellar exertion put into revamping the look and feel of the A-Leagues and the fantastic efforts that went into broadcasting the competition to Australia’s audience could completely deflect from the real issues that football continues to face in Australia.

Put simply, they are the same issues that have plagued the sport in Australia for decades, including infrastructure and failing to connect with every part of the Australian football fraternity.

The embarrassing relocation of Macarthur FC’s opening round clash with Wellington Phoenix due to the dire state of the pitch at Campbelltown Stadium will have resonated with hundreds, if not thousands of football administrators all over the country who rely on third parties to maintain their playing surfaces.

It’s one thing for a third-tier state league team to have to relocate a game due to a bad pitch.

It’s another thing for it to happen in the top-flight. Put bluntly, it’s completely unacceptable.

The issue serves as an urgent reminder for the needs of football owned and operated infrastructure.

The sub-10,000 attendance figures at four out of six games highlight the top-flight’s ongoing struggles to get bums in seats and build genuine support for expansion sides.

Off the back of a championship-winning season, Melbourne City would have to be disappointed with a crowd of 7,213, whilst the 8,210 who turned out for Western United’s home game against Melbourne Victory were largely supporters of the away team.

The relocated 1-1 draw between Macarthur and Wellington attracted a touch over 1,000 people, with a contingent of the people in the ground having stuck around following the earlier F3 Derby between Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets – a fixture which was attended by less than 7,000 people.

They are numbers that must concern the clubs involved, regardless of the various mitigating circumstances that have been offered as explanations.

Macarthur’s relocation to Newcastle for the weekend was undoubtedly a major issue. However, excuses in Melbourne that with lockdown over, people have other priorities will not hold up in the long run.

The reality is that the pool of ‘new fans’ without attachment to an A-Leagues team or another club is dwindling in an extremely competitive market and this is not something that the APL will be able to expand its way out of.

For football and economic reasons, there is no denying that the A-Leagues needs more teams – as Adelaide United coach Carl Veart passionately advocated for last week. The methods for adding those teams is a critical component of the discussion moving forward.

There are clubs that exist today all over Australia that bring comparable, if not larger, crowds to Macarthur FC, Western United and at times Melbourne City.

Surely, at some point, these clubs deserve an opportunity. One of the biggest obstacles to making this happen is undoubtedly football’s first big problem – infrastructure.

Encouraging further investment in existing football infrastructure through the carrot of opportunities to access the top-flight could be a turnkey solution that will help solve both of football’s biggest issues.

The main short-term issue that was highlighted in round one was the varying quality of stream quality on Paramount+.

Personally, this was not something I experienced watching at least parts of every game via the Apple TV app on my television.

I did notice what seemed like a slightly reduced quality when simulcasting the Western United v Melbourne Victory game on my phone whilst watching the Sydney Derby on TV, but the second half seemed to be an improvement on the first.

Of course, it’s not all bad.

Technical streaming issues are nothing new when it comes to new services launching their live products.

We all remember the hugely frustrating buffering issues many users experienced when the Premier League first arrived on Optus Sport and the issues faced with the 2018 World Cup in times of peak demand.

Optus Sport rose to the challenges remarkably well and at this point, there’s no reason to doubt Paramount’s ability to do the same.

Elsewhere, a sell-out crowd packed into HBF Park to watch Perth Glory’s entertaining 1-1 draw against Adelaide United.

No doubt many of the 17,198 who attended the fixture were attracted to the game for the chance to get a glimpse of former Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool star Daniel Sturridge, highlighting the power of genuine marquees in attracting a crowd in Australia.

A healthy 23,118 at the Sydney derby at Commonwealth Bank stadium bodes well for two of the competition’s big teams in a crucial market, too.

The derby also attracted a free-to-air audience of 146,000. On face value alone, that’s not a hugely impressive number, but it is a number that bodes well for the competition according to industry experts, with well-known sports industry commentator @footyindustryAU suggesting that the number was “almost certainly” the highest-rated non-final A-League game in the last five years.

Like most things in life, the marketing gloss will never hide every flaw and the flaws don’t necessarily mean the world is coming to an end.

Round one 2021/22 represents progress and steps forward for Australian football.

The steps forward, however, are on a journey that still has miles to be walked.

Construction of World Cup facilities underway in Tasmania

The upgrades to Clennett’s Lightwood Park are underway, ensuring that Kingborough Lions FC’s home ground will be given a significant opportunity to potentially host training basecamps for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

The upgrades to Clennett’s Lightwood Park are underway, ensuring that Kingborough Lions FC’s home ground will be given a significant opportunity to potentially host training basecamps for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

As an extension to the news from Kingborough Lions United Football Club (KLUFC) earlier this year, the club were recipients of a portion of the Tasmanian Government’s $10 million pledge to upgrade facilities in preparation for hosting World Cup content. Devonport’s Valley Road, Launceston’s Birch Avenue and Churchill Park also received valuable funding.

Football Tasmania CEO Matt Bulkeley sees the opportunity to host a travelling World Cup team as an exciting one for Tasmania.

“We know FIFA are in the process of shortlisting facilities, so it’s fantastic to see work begin so quickly here at Clennett’s Lightwood Park to bring the ground up to scratch and make it an attractive prospect for visiting teams,” he said.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup is the third biggest sporting event on the planet, and while it was disappointing for Tasmania not to host any tournament matches, the opportunities stemming from hosting training camps and warm-up games are still huge, both for football and the economy.

“Not only will travelling teams and support staff provide the own boosts to the local economy, but the travelling media contingent is massive, and many fans will also want to base themselves near their players and commute to games.

“With the eyes of a nation on their team for a month, we can also expect to see great exposure for Tasmania, helping attract new tourists for years to come as we continue to rebuild from the impacts of the pandemic.”

Kingborough Lions FC
Planned redevelopment for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

Kingborough Lions FC President Brian Downes explained the upgraded facility would greatly enhance the growing club’s ability to provide opportunities for players of all ages and skill levels.

“Once completed, the new complex will contain eight changerooms on the ground floor with new club rooms, catering facilities and seating upstairs, making football more accessible for the club’s 600 plus players, and the thousands more that play there each month,” Downes said.

“As well as giving us a great shot of seeing some of the world’s best players here at Clennett’s Lightwood Park, this will help Kingborough Lions FC enhance participation and delivery of all services the club offers to the Kingborough community for many years after the World Cup has finished.

“The additional funding from the Federal Government will not only allow for the total completion of the new building, but will contribute towards further improvements around the main ground including an improved playing surface, new lights to 500 lux standard and improved security and fencing.”

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