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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.

Graham Coe Pavilion project boosts Southern Tablelands Football Association

FNSW

Cookbundoon Pavilion has undergone the final stages of its development, with clubs hailing from the Southern Tablelands Football Association (STFA) set to benefit.

Councillors in August agreed to name the building as the Graham Coe Pavilion, in honour of his strong contribution to the sport and the formation of the STFA.

Included in the new pavilion is six change rooms, a function room, canteen, officials change rooms, public amenities, storeroom, office and an undercover veranda.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council Mayor Bob Kirk acknowledged the significance of satisfying the growth of football interest and participants in the area.

“Football is perhaps the largest sport in our region based on player numbers, and this upgrade to provide essential facilities such as change rooms for our female players was overdue,” he said.

“I am pleased to see it now completed to a high standard, and I hope to be able to officially open it soon once restrictions are eased.

“It would be great to see the facilities utilised in 2021, so I hope the STFA are able to complete their finals series as planned.”

Southern Tablelands Football Manager Craig Norris reflected that the association was excited to get underway in its use of the new pavilion.

“The addition of change rooms and in particular for our girls is huge for the sport and will be a game changer,” he said.

“Female participation in Football in our region is on the rise, with nearly a third of all our participants now being females which is fantastic.”

$572,884 was obtained for the project, through the Federal Government Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, with Goulburn Mulwaree Council also contributing $500,000.

Females will have access to six changerooms to use before and after games, rather than changing in cars and behind trees.

Inclusive football facilities are one of the five key infrastructure priorities from the NSW Football Infrastructure Strategy. This area focuses on increasing and improving gender-neutral player and referee change rooms.

With the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup less than two years away, infrastructure upgrades such as this new amenity at Cookbundoon will allows Southern Tablelands to cater for the expected increase in females playing football.

Football Victoria announce 2021 refund policy

Football Victoria has announced a refund policy that will provide over $1.75 million of refunds to members across the state.

The refunds are based on a formula that take into account the 2021 Football Victoria “No Season” Refund multiplied by the percentage of rounds that were not played.

Football Victoria’s refund policy allocates refunds on both a per player and team basis, with the total refunds being returned to clubs and players totalling in excess of $1.75 million.

Player refunds will be processed via clubs.

The Football Victoria statement announcing the refund policy read:

“Most of our community will recall from both the 2020 and preliminary 2021 policies, that a cost apportionment model is used to generate the relevant refunds for each competition. It is really important to note that FV’s costs are not linear to the season, with an overwhelming proportion of the work to provide football competitions completed prior to the season’s commencement. This is reflected in the preliminary version of the 2021 Fee Refund Policy released pre-season, which contained relevant refunds for a ‘no-season scenario’.

“Based on this cost apportionment model only, no refunds would be payable at this stage of the season. However, FV is acutely aware of the financial impacts to the football ecosystem and its stakeholders. Through this updated policy, we have made a strong commitment to supporting our Clubs and players, at a time when they need it most.

“As a result, we have developed a formula, as below, to deliver funds back to both Clubs and players, to support your football journey and a return to football in 2022. We have applied cost apportionment principles, as represented through the ‘no season’ refund percentages, as well as the percentage of rounds unable to be completed for each competition.”

The announcement also confirmed that Football Victoria would be establishing principles within the Rules of Competition that are better equipped to deal with the consequences of cancelled or partially completed seasons.

“We cannot help but reflect on where our game could have been, if not for the back-to-back season interruptions in 2020 and 2021. While the 2021 season cancellations across the state didn’t come as a surprise to many, we know it doesn’t make it any easier to accept, including what this means for promotion, relegation and awarding champions,” the statement reads.

“In advance of the 2022 season, the Board is committed to ensuring the Rules of Competition reflect a clear set of principles in the event of any future interrupted or incomplete seasons.

“Many Clubs have reinforced a strong desire to play football in any format, when it is safe to do so. The call of the pitch is strong and we will be working with Clubs to provide football in all ways, at venues across the state in spring and summer. We look forward to sharing more information on this shortly when we have direction from the Victorian Government.”

You can access the refund policy HERE.

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