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

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.

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W-League set for expansion ahead of 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

The W-League is set to grow by three teams in time for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

The Australian Professional Leagues announced plans for expansion to Australia’s premier women’s football competition, with Central Coast Mariners, Western United and Wellington Phoenix set to join ahead of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, set to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

The expansion will be the competition’s first since 2015 when Melbourne City joined, with the exact timeline for the addition of these teams to be confirmed in the coming weeks by the APL, and will take the number of teams competing in the competition to 12.

Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix have aggressively pursued a W-League license for a number of years, whilst Western United, who joined the A-League in the last expansion of the men’s competition, have always earmarked their commitment to entering a team in the W-League as well.

The expansion means that the W-League Final Series will have an additional final – a Preliminary Final – which will reward teams finishing first and second with a ‘second chance’ on the road to the Grand Final.

Sarah Walsh, Head of Women’s Football at Football Australia, welcomed the news.

“Women and girls now have more choice than ever when it comes to selecting a sport to play in Australia. It’s imperative that Football continues to progress and evolve when it comes to providing greater access and opportunity for women and girls in football,” she said.

“With the W-League entering its 14th season and a commitment to broader expansion of the league, I am confident that we are taking the right steps forward as a game to ensure that football is the number one sport of choice for women and girls as we strive for 50:50 gender balance by 2027.

“Football has always provided women in football with a clear and accessible pathway to play for the Commonwealth Bank Matildas and junior women’s national teams. W-League expansion not only broadens these existing pathway opportunities, it additionally strengthens our national team aspirations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 and beyond.”

The expansion will deliver greater commercial opportunities, as well as playing opportunities, for football in Australia, according to APL Managing Director Danny Townsend.

“This is just the beginning of a sustained investment programme in women’s football – we announced unbundling just 8-months ago, and are already bringing more games, more players, better broadcast, improved employment conditions and enhanced footballing pathways,” he said.

“We want to unleash football’s potential in Australia and this is a significant step forward in delivering the future that the game deserves.”

A long-term collective bargaining agreement was also announced, to be finalised between the APL and the Professional Football Association, much to the delight of PFA Co-CEO, Kate Gill.

“The expansion of the competition is an important step forward and illustrates the confidence in the women’s game and the solid foundations that have been built,” she said.

“The players have been vocal advocates for the growth of the competition and positively APL’s women’s football strategy will not only provide additional employment opportunities and match minutes for our talented players but delivers a healthy boost to the W-League in the lead up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.”

In addition to the new teams and expanded competition, the APL will also launch a new “Club Championship”.

The Club Championship will reward the club (not the team) with the most combined points at the end of the men’s and women’s seasons.

The new trophy is designed to bring together fans of the men’s and women’s games together.

Football Queensland’s Girls United to encourage female participation

FQ Girls United

Football Queensland have announced the establishment of Girls United programs to inspire greater female participation in the world game across the state.

Girls United will involve a series of targeted programs aiming to encourage women and girls’ participation in football throughout Queensland.

The range of programs will include Development Holiday Programs, social football programs and sessions designed specifically for older women and multicultural communities.

The Girls United Social Program has already been launched in Wide Bay and focuses on providing a social and relaxed setting to play football in.

Girls United Kick On for Women is a low-impact program that provides physical and mental health benefits for women returning to physical activity.

Girls United Celebrating Diversity is an inclusive program designed to eliminate the barriers faced by culturally and linguistically diverse communities in sport.

Kate Lawson, Football Queensland Women and Girls Participation Manager, encouraged women and girls of all ages and cultural backgrounds to get involved in a Girls United program, regardless of their experience in the game.

“Girls United involves a variety of programs to encourage new participants in a fun, low key, inclusive environment,” she said.

“The Girls United Development Holiday Programs will launch across the state in September, with sessions already locked in at Tarragindi Tigers in the Metro South zone, The Gap FC in the Metro North zone, Caloundra FC on the Sunshine Coast, and Endeavor Park in Cairns.

“The free programs are designed to upskill female participants and will include a MiniRoos coaching course, a Level 4 referee course, social games and a BBQ.

“Both events are open to women and girls aged 13 and over, whether they are newcomers to football or experienced players.

“We have already seen great success with this program at Bethania Rams FC in the Metro South zone and Football Queensland will continue to work closely with clubs throughout the state to ensure we have the appropriate structures in place to recruit new participants to the game.”

Football Queensland Chief Executive Officer Robert Cavallucci stated the launch of Girls United was an ongoing demonstration that FQ is delivering on the objectives outlined in the Women and Girls Strategy.

“Football Queensland is committed to creating new products for women and girls and developing female players, coaches and referees,” Cavallucci said.

“September will be a huge month for Football Queensland as we host the Kappa Women’s Super Cup Final and the celebration of 100 years of women’s football.

“As we look ahead to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023, Football Queensland is determined to increase participation opportunities for women and girls throughout the state.”

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