The round ball game pioneering again with the launch of Women in Football

The mere fact that groups and associations with an intention to promote inclusivity even exist, says a lot about their importance.

Without awareness, action and activism things rarely change. Just as an acute and improved understanding of the complex issues surrounding men’s mental health and the newfound and fitting determination to address violence against women are important and poignant challenges in a modern and well-functioning western democracy, the empowerment of women in sport is critical.

For some time there has been something of a comfortable status quo in existence, where more and more women have become involved in organised competitive sport, yet their self-determination within it has remained limited.

Much back-patting and congratulatory sentiment has circled around increased participation and success in women’s sport, however, it has stopped well short of allowing women to become more involved in informing and driving the briskly developing and ever changing narrative.

As is so often the case, the metaphor of football can be a catalyst for change.

June saw the Matildas showcased on the world’s biggest footballing stage in a dramatic World Cup Round of 16 loss to Norway. The fervent energy and enthusiasm around the team saw thousands travel to and focus on France and the gripping group matches against Italy, Brazil and Jamaica.

Television viewership around the globe skyrocketed, achieving astronomical numbers in comparison to previous tournaments and the standard of both the individual and team play was impressive.

Yet just 37.5% of those charged with leading their squads into battle in a managerial/coaching role were women. That is testament to an ingrained perception and existing infrastructure that still sees women’s sport as something of a novelty, an add on if you will.

Achieving a stand-alone identity without the need for delineation between the sexes when discussing competitive play is sporting nirvana. It is also something that needs to and will, be achieved.

Australian football has made its stand on the issue with the formation of the Women in Football Association.

NSW Minister for Sport, the Hon John Sidoti MP launched the initiative at Parliament house last Wednesday. The FFA has given its full endorsement and aims to work collaboratively with and in support of the new group.

FFA Chairman Chris Nikou categorically verbalised that support. “From my perspective, anything that encourages and supports more women to get involved in our game, the better,” he said.

The Women in Football Association has similarities to the United Kingdom’s model, with aims to promote and support gender equality. That not only means a continued effort to expose young girls to the game and encourage participation but also to establish a network of connectivity that benefits players, coaches and officials alike.

Women in Football President and international football reform advocate Bonita Mersiades cited the long standing “under-representation of women in football”, even though it was a sport that attracted women of all ages at all levels as volunteers, administrators, players and fans.

Mersiades and her fellow committee members are unified in their belief that a national association with a focus on “networking, collaboration and professional development from grassroots up, is long overdue”.

The committee has eight members and a considerable and divergent group it is. The secretary of Brunswick Zebras Carole Fabian, President of South Hobart FC Vicki Morton and the director of Heartbeat of Football Elia Santoro are three respected voices in the game.

CEO of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation Lesley Podesta, journalist George Donikian and Western Sydney University Associate Professor Jorge Knijnik also bring an array of skills and knowledge to the committee.

The eighth member is former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic, a man with potentially as much knowledge as anyone when it comes to the inner workings of the women’s game.

Not only will Women in Football support the players, managers and the peripheral women in the game, it will also compile a definitive and accessible professional contact list, in an attempt to advocate for increased employment opportunities for female football professionals.

That network aims to provide federations with a resource to identify suitably qualified women, appoint them and address the existing imbalance via improved professional development and opportunity.

It looms as a ground breaking initiative, both for the women and girls involved in the game as well as Australian football in general.

The journey to true inclusivity and equality continues, with Women in Football now likely to accelerate that rate of change and advance the women’s game another step in the short to medium term.

Membership of the Association is just $25, open to men and women and the relevant details can be found at womeninfootball.org.au.

Staff Writer
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Football Queensland one step closer to gender parity

Football Queensland have released numbers for the 2023 year that show a steep rise in female participation across all age groups following the incredible Women’s World Cup held on home soil.

In 2023, the split for Football Queensland participation was set at 69.8% Male and 30.2% Female which represents a hefty increase from 25.5% participation in 2022. The federation have been adamant that the 50/50 gender parity goal can be achieved by the start of the 2027 season which matches Football Australia’s Gender Equality Action Plan.

In the 2023-2026 Football Queensland Strategic Plan, the federation recognised that they had to transform their Women and Girls Strategy by integrating it with FQ’s Strategic Infrastructure Plan and Schools Strategy to supercharge growth.

The plan mentioned that there will be new facilities in place for boys and girls teams built in Brisbane’s North which will deliver state-of-the-art playing fields, a clubhouse, and community spaces.

This ambition to fast track growth means that FQ are putting an emphasis on creating the best possible foundation for ongoing growth on their path to 50/50 participation. This consists of improving numbers in coaching, volunteering and refereeing for women and girls.

Quickly, the federation are seeing results in many different sectors of the women’s game, most recently announcing that there was an incredible 81.4% participation increase recorded at women and girls festivals and programs in 2023.

FQ also has an ongoing commitment to supporting the progression of female coaches which was seen in the 2023 success that resulted in a 28% increase in female coach numbers for the year.

The next step for Football Queensland is ensuring the up and coming talent in the women’s game is properly developed by making use of the FQ Academy QAS program. The program has been a major success and has produced players for Australia’s national teams, including eight players in the CommBank Matildas squad for the 2023 WWC.

The strategic plan key targets outlined that FQ are ensuring there will be at least 25 Advanced female technical directors and female technical staff in key roles across Queensland by 2026.

This drive to utilise the success of the 2023 WWC along with strategic planning and tactical investment in the women’s game has allowed the federation to see enormous growth so quickly.

They are well on their way to hitting important KPI’s, similar to the 50/50 gender parity by 2027 and 62,000 club based female participants by 2026 which signify the change in modern football.

NWSL signs Amazon as a retail and cloud tech partner

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) have confirmed a multi-year sponsorship with Amazon, making them the Exclusive Retail Sponsor of the NWSL and an extension of its current media deal.

This is an expansion of the previously announced multi-year rights deal that cemented Prime Video as the exclusive home for 27 NWSL matches each season at amazon.com/nwsl.

As part of the sponsorship, it will name Amazon as an official NWSL licensee. NWSL fans can now shop Amazon Fan Shop for hundreds of officially licensed NWSL products from Merch on Demand, Amazon’s print-on-demand service. Selection includes t-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, and more, spanning every NWSL team, across men’s, women’s, and youth styles and sizes.

This Amazon collaboration will also boost the media team at the NWSL with the league migrating match content from previous seasons using Amazon Web Services (AWS). This cloud-based media archive will enable NWSL to easily transfer historical footage and surface highlights, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage to enhance fan engagement by building a more personalized connection between fans, the league, and the players they love.

Amazon Prime is also now the presenting partner for the NWSL’s Best XI Awards which recognises the best players by position on a monthly cadence throughout the season. For Prime, this represents an opportunity to bring fans closer to the players they love and joins them in celebrating the excellence of the athletes selected for this honour.

NWSL Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer Julie Haddon discussed the importance of expanding their existing deal with Amazon.

“We could not be more excited to continue to integrate Amazon more deeply into the NWSL family as they become our exclusive retail sponsor,” Haddon mentioned in a press release.

“Amazon’s global reach and customer-centric approach pairs perfectly with the NWSL’s fan-forward ethos. This partnership will not only amplify the NWSL’s fandom and growth but will also offer our fans an easy and accessible way to support their favourite teams and athletes.”

The ultimate goal is to increase the profile of the NWSL and serving customers’ growing interest in merchandise, content, and technical innovation.

The expansion is a fantastic move by the NWSL who are bringing the expertise of several Amazon businesses together in service to the league and its fans as they enter a period of incredible attendance and participation growth.

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