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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.

Matthew Galea is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Acun Medya Group secures Hull City takeover

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, headed by Acun Ilicali.

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, for a fee in the reported region of $37 million AUD.

Acun Ilicali, a 52-year-old businessman and owner of Acun Medya Group, was introduced to fans at the MKM Stadium prior to the club’s 2-0 win at home over Blackburn Rovers.

The takeover brings the controversial ownership of the Allam family to an end, much to the delight of fans after a roller coaster 11 years in charge.

Despite overseeing two promotions to the Premier League, an FA Cup Final and Hull’s first-ever foray into a European competition through the UEFA Europa League in 2014, the Allam family became increasingly unpopular with the fans.

The unpopularity of the Allam family is due to many different reasons, however it all started when the family proposed a name change to ‘Hull Tigers’ back in 2013. The move was ultimately blocked by authorities a year later, which frustrated the Allams and they then put the club up for sale, straining the relationship with fans and seeing a decline in attendances at home fixtures.

The new ownership will look to win back supporters and turn the negative tide.

Acun Medya Group Owner, Acun Ilicali:

“I am happy that I have fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. We are starting a beautiful journey with Hull City. We have many big dreams and goals to achieve together with our fans,” he said.

Outgoing Vice-Chairman Ehab Allam:

“During our tenure, we have worked hard to create a sustainable model and successful academy set-up, giving the club the foundations it needs for the future,” he said.

“There have been lots of ups and downs over the last 11 years or so, but we will take some very fond memories with us… We have taken a very business-led approach to running the club and I truly hope Acun can rebuild the relationship with the fanbase and also bring back the success on the pitch that fans crave and deserve.”

Hertha Berlin pushing hard for stadium upgrade

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to the Olympiastadion.

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to its current home, the Olympiastadion, releasing fresh renderings of its vision for such a project.

The club has been attempting to progress plans to develop a new home for several years and in February 2020 stated that the OlympiaPark would be the preferred location.

In November 2018, Hertha confirmed it was targeting an opening date in July 2025 for a new-look Olympiastadion, with preference to be building a completely new stadium rather than renovating the current one.

The current Olympiastadion has been home to Hertha Berlin for almost 60 years, and has a capacity of around 74,000. However, the club is seeking a more intimate stadium for its fans, as well as the inclusion of an athletics track.

Hertha’s former stadium commissioner, Klaus Teichert, withdrew an application for a decision to be made on the location for a new stadium, with Brandenburg also put forward as a potential location.

Hertha Berlin Chief Financial Officer, Ingo Schiller:

“We have entered into talks with the new government and are working hard to set the course for our new stadium in 2022,” he said.

“The stadium is the club’s most important project, especially in terms of the economic situation.”

There is a lot of political support necessary for the project to get approved, as the potential worksite currently includes residential apartments, a big reason for negotiations coming to a stall at times.

A resident spoke to local radio station rbb24:

“You talk about ir, but not with us. We are still not prepared to sell our apartments in Sportforumstraße or to negotiate about them,” they said.

“It is very unfortunate that our residents in Sportforumstraße are once again unsettled by this uncoordinated approach.”

Hertha Berlin and backers of the new stadium have been in negotiation with Berlin’s sports senator, Iris Spranger, with talks to continue over the next month.

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