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.

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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.

How the NPL can learn off the USL’s content deal with Footballco

The United Soccer League (USL) has launched a strategic content partnership with Footballco, a football media company, being designated as an “Official Content Partner of the USL.”

The company will showcase the league, which is the football pyramid separate to the franchised MLS in the US, through existing fan and player-led video content formats, original creatives, features and news.

Goal and Mundial will focus on the men’s divisions, while Indivisa will work on the soon-to-be-launched USL Super League and USL W League with a more lifestyle and community-led approach to its content.

Footballco is strategically aiming to expand in the US, with the next Men’s World Cup and Olympics taking place there, and a bid for the next Women’s World Cup possibly adding that to the mix.

USL Chief Marketing Officer Greg Lalas discussed the importance of fast-tracking the USL’s growth with the sport becoming more popular.

“The USL is the heartbeat of American soccer, and we are thrilled to partner with Footballco to help bring the story of our leagues and our clubs to new fans around the world,” Lalas explained in a USL released statement.

“Brands like Goal, Mundial, and Indivisa are massively influential in the global soccer community, and as we look to extend our reach both domestically and internationally, we were excited about the opportunity Footballco presents.

“Likewise, we look forward to supporting Footballco’s strategic expansion in the U.S. This really is a match made in soccer heaven.”

Jason Wagenheim, Footballco’s CEO, North America discussed the potential this deal has for both companies.

“The USL is among the most exciting soccer leagues in the United States. As we expand our U.S. footprint, we look forward to connecting at an entirely new level with the clubs, players and fans at the heart of the USL,” Wagenheim added in a statement.

“Our reporting goes beyond just news and scores to cover the intersection of soccer and lifestyle, and there’s a huge opportunity to put the USL at the centre of that storytelling – something we know our audience craves.”

There are a lot of similarities between the NPL and USL in terms of its place in the football pyramid of its respective country and attendance numbers, and whilst the funding is different, it begs the question, should the standard of NPL content be higher from the state federations and clubs?

NPL1 matches are currently being streamed on YouTube under the NPL.TV channel, with every game live and with commentary. There have been known issues in recent years with NPL.TV streaming on the now administrated Cluch TV and the absence of live games since had affected the pyramid.

After a return to YouTube in 2024, it’s good to see a healthy audience watching games live on a big platform but fan and club driven content is still so scarce.

Akin to the partnership between USL and Footballco, Australia’s state federations need to do more with website and social media content. Among all of the divisions in each state, there is plenty of opportunity for behind-the-scenes access, stadium news and promotion of big matches including derbies to draw interest to YouTube live streams.

The forward-thinking approach of the USL has provided the NPL with a good blueprint to expand the lower leagues and Australian Football pyramid.

It’s simple, providing the vast array of NPL fans with league-focused social media content on a popular social media channel like the state federation accounts and actively promote any signings, big club news or upcoming matches that fans could attend or watch on NPL.TV.

A lot of these suggestions aren’t particularly out of budget for the NPL, but rather are more of an effort-driven focus that can have a big impact on attendance, viewership and publicity.

FA Wales takes action with Facility & Investment Vision

The Football Association of Wales (FAW), in collaboration with the Cymru Football Foundation (CFF), released the Facility and Investment Vision to improve the national football experience.

In a report published on its website, FAW and the CFF provide a detailed, statistical overview of Wales’ current football facilities, demonstrating the need for more investment, and the positive impact this could have on Welsh communities.

Football is the largest participation team sport in Wales, reporting over 87,000 active players across 811 registered clubs.

Moreover, football participation is a huge driver within the Welsh economy. FAW reports that the current overall return from football participation is over £550 million ($1.07 billion AUD), split across social, economic, and health sectors.

The association believes that further investment into the sport will generate an additional £1 million ($1.9 million AUD).

At the elite level, the Welsh men’s national team has progressed significantly in the last 10 years, performing well in the past two European Championships, and qualifying for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1958.

These achievements place a microscope on how the association maintains this success, but more importantly, how it can elevate pathways for juniors and women’s football.

The current situation

The statistics regarding current facilities in the FAW’s report illustrate a dire situation for Welsh football.

Pitch demand continually exceeds supply in Wales with a reported average number of five teams sharing one pitch, despite 60% of clubs advising a need for at least two pitches to operate effectively.

Pitch overuse explains why just 21% of Welsh football pitches are reported to be in “good” condition, whilst 1 in 5 games are cancelled due to wet weather and localised flooding. FAW believes these figures will increase if action is not taken now.

The delivery of artificial surfaces in the United Kingdom is the primary solution to combatting natural elements, yet, 54% of participants in a Welsh national survey state that access to those pitches is difficult.

Off the pitch, changerooms facilities are subject to similar negative feedback, with only 23% of participants saying their changerooms are in “good” condition.

This feedback takes on greater significance given the increased popularity of women’s football, and the subsequent need for more female-friendly changerooms.

A combination of poor pitch quality and changeroom facilities reduces an individual’s enjoyment in football, and this threatens participation and sustainability at all levels of the game.

Addressing the current situation

The purpose of the Facility and Investment Vision report is to show investors exactly what is required for football in Wales to move forward.

In particular, FAW has created a club model that uses the size of football clubs to determine the quantity of facilities required for them to run effectively.

To use an Australian comparison, an NPL club like Sydney Olympic would be considered large because it has over 20 teams at senior and junior level. Whereas a community club, that competes at amateur level (e.g Melbourne State Leagues), would be considered small.

 

The club model plan represents a smart and effective way to show potential investors what they can do for Welsh football.

 

Regarding current investment, the CFF has contributed over £9 million ($17.4 million AUD) as part of its mission to strengthen Welsh communities through football.

It is succeeding in its mission, with 98% of people reporting an improved experience when using facilities supported by the CFF.

FAW wants to improve its relationships with county councils and schools so that action plans can be drawn. This will help secure investment for better football facilities and smoother community access.

Objectives for the facilities vision

The overarching objective for FAW and CFF is to deliver a wider range of high-quality football facilities that stakeholders can access year-round.

The economic impact of future investment has been mentioned here already, but environmental sustainability is also at the forefront of the organisation’s plans.

FAW recognises the importance of future-proofing facilities to avoid early re-construction, thereby reducing its carbon footprint.

From an elite pathway perspective, FAW wants to build world-leading facilities to better support future generations of international players and coaches.

This goes beyond the provision of high-quality pitches and changerooms, with FAW insisting that technology, media, and commercial sectors must be improved.

FAW Chief Executive Noel Mooney explained the honest appraisal of football facilities in Wales is motivation for delivering a high-quality football experience.

“We know that facilities in Wales are not where they need to be, and this vision gives us a clear plan to bring facilities across Wales at all levels into the present day,” he told the FAW website.

Mooney elaborated further on the yearly target figure for investment, set by FAW and the CFF.

“We want to be able to invest at least £10 million a year into improving facilities in communities across Wales to bring them up to standard. This investment will continue to support the work that the Cymru Football Foundation is already doing and allow us to grow football in Wales on and off the pitch.

The Facility and Investment Vision demonstrates a commitment to Welsh football stakeholders by FAW and the CFF, and signifies an important moment in the future development of football in the country.

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