Women’s Cricket World Cup was great, but Matildas home World Cup will be greater

Last Sunday’s T20 Women’s World Cup final between Australia and India was a fantastic sporting spectacle.

The crowd of over 86,000 at the MCG, the highest attendance for a standalone women’s sporting event in Australia, saw the Aussie side win their fifth T20 World Cup.

The local TV ratings were also impressive, with an average audience of 1.231 million Australians tuning into the match.

While the tournament final was a huge success, it is up for debate whether the previous stages lived up to expectations.

Crowds were small for most of the other games throughout the competition, including only 6,161 showing up to the SCG for a rain affected Australia vs South Africa semi-final.

Australia’s opening match of the tournament against India had 13,432 fans in attendance at the Sydney Showground Stadium, the biggest outside of the final.

In comparison, The Matildas drew a crowd of 14,014 in Newcastle last Friday for an Olympic qualifier against Vietnam.

If Australia and New Zealand do win the right to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, it’s safe to say crowd figures will be much more impressive than the T20 Women’s World Cup.

Initial projections in Australia and New Zealand’s joint bid book, claim that over 1.5 million will attend the 2023 tournament with an average crowd of 24,000 per match.

Australia will host 24 games throughout the group stages of the tournament and 11 in the knockout stage, with the final to be held at Stadium Australia in Sydney.

The other stadiums that will be used for the tournament in Australia are: the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Brisbane Stadium, Newcastle Stadium, York Park, Perth Oval, the re-developed Sydney Football Stadium and Hindmarsh Stadium.

If the tournament is priced correctly, it’s hard to see Australia’s bid not being extremely successful for women’s sport.

Crowds for Matildas games in a home World Cup will be huge, but there will also be significant interest in other teams competing in the tournament due to our diverse population.

TV ratings will be big in Australia and around the world, although Australia’s time-zone is not exactly favourable for a major event.

Speaking to SBS TWG, Off The Pitch reporter and experienced FIFA and UEFA watcher James Corbett, believes Australia is the favourite.

“If we look at it as a rational open tender process, you’d like to think [that Australia are in front],” Corbett said.

“The Matildas are arguably Australia’s most popular national team and in a competitive domestic sporting culture have brilliantly carved out a place for ’soccer’ in Australia and the country has, in Sam Kerr, one of the best players on the planet.

“The country has the infrastructure to host it; it’s an event that’s far less dependent on TV revenues as a measure of success, so its distance is less of a factor. It is politically and economically stable.”

Corbett believes FFA’s appointment of James Johnson as new CEO will change the perception of Australia’s governing body and their previous administration faults.

“If you look at the political side, where Australia has faltered in the past is a distance between its administrators from the ‘heart and soul’ of the game.

“Previous FFA CEOs and other leading executives have come from other sports and have been considered aloof from their peers in the global game, who ultimately decide these matters.

“The men’s 2022 World Cup bid – which was arrogant and sulphurous – was a case study in how not to bid for a major competition.

“There’s been a realignment with the true values of football in recent years, and the FFA’s new CEO, James Johnston, has worked for both FIFA and the AFC and knows which buttons to push, as well as being tremendously engaging and good at his job.

“Former Matilda, Moya Dodd, is arguably one of the most powerful people in women’s football worldwide and will know how to navigate the committee rooms.”

This past week the FFA announced that there was an 11% increase in participation in 2019 for women and girls playing the sport of Football in Australia.

These are important figures to show FIFA there is an appetite for women’s football in Australia and a World Cup on home soil will reap huge long-term benefits.

The overall total of close to 2 million people playing football in Australia is also a good indicator that there is a considerable market who will attend a world class footballing event in our backyard.

The Matildas qualified for the Olympics in Japan on Wednesday, a country who is expected to be Australia and New Zealand’s number one rival to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The ball is now in FIFA’s court, with a host announcement to be made in June.

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

Government facilities investment needs to keep up as Women’s Asian Cup looms

In recent times, Football Australia released their ‘Legacy 23 report’ on the Women’s World Cup which was held in Australia and New Zealand last July.

Sarah Walsh – Head of Women’s Football, World Cup Legacy and Inclusion at Football Australia – reflected on the impact of the Matildas after the release of the Legacy report. The Matildas have been at the forefront of transformative societal change, challenging perceptions and gender stereotypes while advocating for sustained evolution within the Australian and international sporting landscape.

“The Legacy ‘23 post-tournament report delves into the success achieved in leveraging the tournament, however, emphasises the need for increased funding to ensure that the legacy of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 isn’t merely a momentary triumph, but evolves into foundations for a thriving, equitable, and dynamic future for football,” Walsh stated.

The numbers revealed in the report were quite staggering. The document stated that the World Cup had generated a $1.32 billion impact on the economy – with over 86,000 visitors to Australia contributing strongly to that figure.

1,288,175 tickets were sold to Australian based matches, with a global television viewership of almost two billion people.

The event itself played a hugely significant role in promoting physical exercise and well-being across the nation with an estimated $324 million reduction in healthcare costs due to this increased activity in the community.

A key part of the ‘Legacy 23’ plan from the FA was to garner increased government investment in facilities – due to the expected boom of popularity in the sport after hosting a World Cup on home shores.

Football Australia unlocked more than $398 million in federal and state government funding for ‘Legacy 23’ related projects. $129 million of the total funds also positively benefitted other sports – due to facility upgrades to stadiums such as Perth Rectangular Stadium, Brisbane Stadium, Melbourne Rectangular Stadium and the La Trobe Sports Precinct in Melbourne.

Due to the Matildas’ success, and FA’s advocacy, the Australian government contributed $200 million to the ‘Play Our Way’ grant program. This is Australia’s biggest comprehensive investment in women’s sports, with funding to address participation barriers through safe, inclusive and sustainable facilities and programs.

While the allocation of the investment between sports for this grant program has not been made public, football must be at the forefront for a large portion of this funding with a home Women’s Asian Cup on the horizon.

According to FA’s ‘Legacy 23’ report, under 20% of the $398 million worth of government funding was invested into community facilities.

“There remains a significant deficiency in facility investment across pivotal states that demands urgent attention,” FA’s report read.

“As participation demands increase, the strain on existing facilities within the 2,400+ clubs nationwide, already at saturation levels, requires immediate attention from all levels of government—federal, state, and local.

“Addressing this gap is essential to meet the expected surge in participation, improve the experience and retention rate for women and girls on our journey to the national 50:50 target, and continue fostering the wide-ranging benefits that football provides to its community of over 2 million people.

“It will therefore be crucial that grassroots football club facility upgrades materially benefit from the Play Our Way grant program.”

The AFC Women’s Football Committee recently recommended Australia as the host country for the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup – essentially earmarking another monumental football tournament to be held in our backyard.

According to Australian Financial Review, Football Australia is expecting up to half a million attendees for the event, with visitor/organisation expenditure of between $115 and $140 million, making it the biggest female edition of all time.

With the tournament just two years away, it is essential that further grassroots facility investment is allocated by government parties as the demand and popularity of the sport will continue to grow at a significant rate.

FA claims the Asian Cup represented “a crucial platform to advance the goals outlined in the ‘Legacy 23’, particularly in addressing the shortfall in football facility investment.”

“Australia is ready, one of the most multicultural societies in the world, with over 300 different ancestries and almost 20% of our nation’s population having ties back to countries that comprise the Asian Football Confederation, meaning every team that visits our shores will have a ‘home away from home’ feeling,” the report said.

“This esteemed Asian football tournament provides an ideal platform for all tiers of government to employ football as a tool for effectively implementing sports diplomacy and tourism strategies within Asia.”

The governing body believes there is an overall $2.9 billion facility gap to bring grassroots facilities in line to an acceptable level.

They won’t get anywhere near that level of investment from government authorities immediately, but considerably more must be invested before Asia’s biggest female sporting event comes to our shores.

2023 FIFA review underlines incredible Women’s World Cup impact

FIFA has released their ‘2023 Financials in Review’ statement which highlights the incredible financial and cultural impact of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup heavily contributed to FIFA’s television broadcasting success with the body’s revenue total reaching AU$408.4 mil. The coverage was exceptional with the tournament being shown in over 200 territories by 130 broadcasters and in all other markets thanks to the FIFA+ platform. In order to provide for the ever-growing popularity of the women’s game, FIFA has adapted its media rights sales strategy by taking a more comprehensive and detailed approach to the market.

The skyrocketing television audiences have been replicated on FIFA’s digital platforms. Traffic in the tournament surpassed the entirety of the 2019 tournament within 12 days, welcoming 22 million unique users, with an average of 2.4 million users visiting FIFA Women’s World Cup channels daily.

The biggest source of income was the sale of marketing rights from commercial partnerships, which delivered AU$697 million, more than 101% over budget. FIFA successfully renewed record long-term partnerships with Hyundai/Kia, Qatar Airways and Visa to cover the Women’s World Cup and 2026 Men’s World Cup. A total of 30 sponsors signed up for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, up from 22 in the 2019 edition and they were duly rewarded for that.

Hospitality rights and ticketing sales for the FIFA Women’s World Cup amounted to AU$65.7 million, another record that the tournament smashed.

FIFA benefited from a strong demand for ticket and hospitality packages for this unique tournament, which also set a new Women’s World Cup record with nearly two million tickets sold, smashing their target of 1.5 million that was set in 2019 after the previous edition.

The average attendance rate across the tournament’s 64 matches was 87% with the highest crowd being 75,784 fans packed into a sold-out Stadium Australia to watch the Spain-England final.

Football Australia and the subsequent State federations all have the same focus in terms of making sure they successfully leverage the home World Cup and surpass their KPI’s.

In Football Australia’s One Football Framework, it states that they want to ‘reshape the game for Women and Girls’ which will start by aligning their digital and data strategies to be more focused on women which is similar to FIFA’s successful approach.

Recently the ‘Play our way’ program shows the government’s commitment with them providing $200 million in grants to improve sporting facilities for women and girls around Australia in the hopes to create a solid base for future growth.

The Legacy ’23 investments into Football that will amount to AU$296 million, will be key in maintaining growth and talent development as the A-Leagues sort out issues with professionalism and club finances that are affecting both the Men’s and Women’s game.

The success of the recent u20’s Young Matildas Asian Cup can’t be underestimated either in terms of the bright future this country is showing. A third place finish and bronze medal was the best ever finish from a Young Matildas side in the competition, with the squad featuring four players under the age of 18, one of the youngest in the competition.

These statistics by FIFA show that women’s football is experiencing a surge of interest and recognition, and the framework set out by Football Australia can ensure that is success is sustained long-term and positively affects participation at grassroots level.

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