Will the Matildas change the perception of Australian football forever?

Matildas vs France Women's World Cup

The Matildas’ date with destiny is fast approaching.

They play England on Wednesday, in a semi-final match up of a FIFA World Cup on our home shores.

It is Australian football’s biggest ever match, with a Matildas team that is widely adored.

If they are to go on and win the tournament, it will be one of Australian sports biggest achievements – but there is still a way to go yet.

There’s no doubt about it, the Matildas are a box office hit.

A sign brought to their Round of 16 match against Denmark by a young Australian girl in the crowd just about sums up their popularity. The sign in the stands read “I gave up Taylor Swift tickets for the Matildas”. The team have transcended sport and all metrics are through the roof.

The quarter-final clash against France drew an average of 4.17 million viewers on the Seven Network, making it one of the biggest TV events in the past two decades in Australia. This figure doesn’t include the Optus Sport viewing numbers, which will also add on quite a substantial amount.

The upcoming match against England is set to be one of the biggest TV viewing events in Australian history. It should surpass all previous events – except Cathy Freeman’s victory race in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Alongside this, Matildas’ shirts have easily outsold Socceroo’s shirts and attendances at Women’s World Cup matches continue to break record after record.

It’s a real feel-good moment for Australian football, but what also must be accounted for is what comes next.

Once the Women’s World Cup tournament finishes on the August 20 – whether the Matildas are in the final or not – perceptions must be changed at a grassroots level around the country for the sport.

All those young girls and boys watching the Matildas games in the stadium or on TV need as many opportunities as possible to play the sport they are currently invested in through the World Cup.

Whilst funding grants such as the newly built Home of the Matildas in Victoria is important for the professional side of the game, a recent announcement by Football Queensland focused on the necessity to give youngsters more opportunities to further engage in the world game.

Football Queensland announced they were awarded the lease at a new $35 million community sports complex at Nudgee.

A deal was struck between the governing body and the Brisbane City Council – with the aim of the facility to be a northern hub for community football programs.

Speaking to media, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner stated football is experiencing an incredible take-up, particularly among women and girls, and the new headquarters will help meet demand for additional playing fields.

“Brisbane is the fastest growing capital city in Australia and it’s important that we continue to deliver the facilities our residents need to stay active and play their favourite sports,” he said.

“The incredible efforts of our Matildas and the huge crowds during the Women’s World Cup show this facility is being delivered right in time to meet the booming participation in football by women and girls.

“After attending the World Cup and watching my son play each weekend, I’m proud our Council team is playing a role in helping Football Queensland grow the game in Brisbane with this great new sport and recreation facility on the north side.”

Football Queensland CEO Robert Cavallucci explained the Nudgee facility would build vital capacity for the game as Brisbane’s and the state’s largest participation sport continues its rapid growth.

“Today’s announcement will help meet the existing pressures and demands of the 40,000 strong club-based participants in Brisbane LGA and further support the delivery of community, development, and female football programs to the more than 35,000 social players in Brisbane as part of a Metro North Football hub,” he said.

“Enabling infrastructure projects like this are key to delivering opportunities for the thousands of boys and girls who are being turned away by local clubs every season due to a lack of infrastructure to service the current demands of our ever growing game.

“I’d like to commend Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and recognise the great work of the Brisbane City Council for acknowledging this and delivering such a critical boost to the community. Football Queensland will create more places for the local community to play football and deliver more programs to improve the football experience for participants of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

“The success of the biggest ever FIFA Women’s World Cup currently happening in our own backyard is a reflection that Brisbane is a football city, with a huge appetite for the beautiful game.

“With the CommBank Matildas inspiring a new generation of young male and female footballers, infrastructure like this facility will ensure we can serve the next generation by meeting the infrastructure needs of today.”

Infrastructure projects and agreements with councils such as this need to become commonplace after the end of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The game needs further investment and it has shown throughout this event it deserves it.

Participation numbers will continue to grow, especially amongst young girls – so more facilities will need to be utilised.

The Matildas have shown what Australian football can be at its best. For the next generation, it is vital for the game to influence and change decision maker perceptions at a local level.

Staff Writer
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Joe Montemurro’s move to Lyon showcases elite coaching talent from Australia

Joe Montemurro has become the first non-French coach to take over Olympique Lyon Women’s team in their 20-year history after a two-year deal was struck with the legendary Australian coach.

The former Juventus and Arsenal head coach takes over the reins from Sonia Bompastor who left at the end of the 2023-24 season to manage WSL club Chelsea.

Montemurro’s resume in the women’s game is truly unmatched, leading Juventus to five trophies over a three year stretch including a treble in his maiden season. Before that he had a revolutionary coaching spell at WSL giants Arsenal, with whom he claimed the 2018 League Cup and the Women’s Super League the following year.

Montemurro is just another of many top Australian coaches produced from home soil, with his youth squads and A-League Women’s experience in Melbourne shaping the genius he has become today.

However, a hot topic in the Australian coaching community has been the lack of opportunities abroad for many local coaches whether it be due to the lack of pathways up the ranks or the AFC/UEFA licencing issue that has locked out managers from going abroad.

In a country that has produced plenty of elite manager talent, there are 14 managers in head coaching roles abroad, with only four of those in Europe (Oxtoby, Postecoglou, Montemurro, and Wehrman). It’s simply not enough.

Names like Jeff Hopkins and Ante Juric, who have plied their trade in Australian women’s football with many titles each are left to ponder the opportunity of coaching abroad without their UEFA licence acquired.

Both Montemurro and Oxtoby in particular have been pioneers in the women’s game regarding the seamless transition from Australia to European success, and the consistent successes of the former will surely legitimise women’s football more in this country and increase opportunities for the next generation of coaches who start locally and experience early success.

With this move, Montemurro also unfortunately rules himself out of the coveted Matildas manager position that he was certainly one of the leading contenders for. It was a story of poor timing with Australia’s best ever women’s football coach left to wait too long for Gustavsson to make way.

Montemurro also ended up on the final three of the shortlist in the USWNT’s pursuit of a new manager with the Olympics arriving soon, however legendary Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was selected to take over.

However, it could be for the better, with Lyon’s sky high expectations something that Montemurro will be very familiar with because of his time at both Arsenal and Juventus.

Lyon have won the French league 17 times in the last 18 seasons, making the league title the minimum requirement for Montemurro, who has really been brought on board to get them back on top in Europe after they lost to Barcelona in last month’s Champions League final.

Montemurro’s move to Europe’s elite is another step forward in his career and again showcases an example of local coaching success translating into roles in Europe, something that has not been seen enough for football in Australia.

Recent data shows huge growth in the A-Leagues

Recent data has come out of Australia’s top leagues for both men’s and women’s to show a huge increase in support and viewership.

The Isuzu UTE A-League has built on a three-year continuous growth with 1.44 million fans attending the 2023-24 season. The highest number since the 2018-19 season.

This has resulted in a 33% increase in club memberships and a 36% increase in consideration for purchasing membership.

This has also followed a trend of increasing interest in the younger age group with 18-25 marking a 38% increase in fan interest.

This is evident that there is growth in support of the sport and investors and stakeholders should consider this positive data.

The final series is a prime example with the highest numbers of fans since 2009-10 with 138,000 attending. Also, on Channel 10 alone, 1.2 million people watched the finals.

The digital and broadcast viewership has also indicated a year-by-year growth with a 53% increase in Paramount+ viewership and a 16% increase in free-to-air viewership.

This comes in unison with social media which has developed staggeringly the most. On the social and digital channels, there were 530 million video views up 210%, 1.9 million followers which reached a 44% increase and 1.2 billion impressions which is up a significant 70% from last season.

These results indicate that a strong digital and social media presence is key for the A-League’s popularity.

Not just with the fans and supporters the league itself crossed some milestones with record transfer fees and 3.92 goals a game (most in any league worldwide).

Also, it continues to be a league that supports the Australian footballing system and future stars with 15 A-League players called up to the Socceroos squad and a 46% increase in minutes for under 23 players.

This proves the league is not only still supporting the growth and opportunity for young Australian players, but also continues to be expanding and competitive, which are key goals to achieve for any footballing league, especially one that is continuing to try and develop every season.

The Liberty Women’s A-League on the back of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has shown promising growth in similar sectors as well, indicating that there is a flow-on effect between international support and an embracing of the local national game.

19 players who played in the 2023 Women’s FIFA World Cup played in the Liberty A-League, showing worldwide talent presides and is attracted to this league.

The 2023-24 season ended with the highest attendance ever with 312,176 patrons a 123% increase. This goes in hand with the huge 611% increase in club-specific memberships.

There was also the highest attendance of any women’s club sports match this season at 11,475.

Broadcasting viewership has also had massive growth. There was a 53% increase in average 10Bold FTA audiences and a 68% increase in 10play minutes viewed. The Grand Final itself got 279,000 views up by 64%.

The social media of the Liberty A-League has followed the trend with a community size increase of 32%, impressions up 64%, engagement increased by 80% and a huge 192% increase in videos viewed.

These numbers are a telling sign that these leagues are growing in popularity and have all the support needed for more future success if they are further invested in and supported with long-term strategies and goals. The fans want to maintain support the game and they need the necessary investment to deliver it.

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