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.

America must fix issues before co-hosting 2026 World Cup

Copa America 2024 has kicked off the knockout stages with plenty of goals and drama on the pitch, but that has quickly been overshadowed by low attendances, poor pitch quality and sky high ticket prices leaving many fans, players and coaches stranded and confused.

In what can be seen as a prelude to a landmark 2026 FIFA World Cup, the USA have already shown signs of failing to host a major football event in a country where grassroots participation and attendances for the sport desperately need a revival.

These have been the main issues so far at the event that are in the spotlight if the US want to correctly co-host the biggest tournament with Mexico and Canada in the sport.

Attendance numbers

If the sweltering heat and embarrassing broadcast camera angles weren’t already bad enough, the US Men’s national team failed to sell out any of their three group stage matches, with a controversial 47,873 crowd for the opener against Bolivia in an 80,000 seat AT&T Stadium.

The comparison is to put it side-by-side with the Euros currently in Germany, where there have been no issues packing out stadiums with capacities of up to 75,000 and tickets selling out months in advance.

Fan culture is rife with many fan zones and packed watching venues keeping the streets busy with football fandom which is just completely non-existent in the US.

But there is a reason for all of this, and it can’t be for a lack of interest after Fox Sports confirmed that the must-win USA-Uruguay contest attracted an average of 3.78 million viewers on FS1.

According to Fox Sports, that was the largest audience to see a a match that isn’t a World Cup on FS1 and the highest-ever English-language viewership total in the United States for a Copa America match.

It smashed previous Copa America games so far, but it never translated to support in the stadium which gives the hosts slight encouragement on finding a solution to fix this problem.

Ticket Prices

Fans at the event are consistently being priced out, leading directly to the poor attendance numbers and lack of atmosphere.

The lowest ticket price for the quarterfinal matches of the Euros were as low as $96 to watch world-class teams such as Spain, Germany and France whilst in the Copa America, Ticketmaster and Seat Geek in the US had fans pay minimum of $163 for quarterfinal tickets.

This is without factoring in the travel expenses going from state to state versus the easily accessible matches in Germany that can be travelled via affordable public transport.

The NFL and NBA have some of the highest average ticket prices in all of domestic sporting leagues across the world, but the demand and entertainment offered gives fans a reason to accept its value. A sport like soccer in the US would thrive from its affordability and encourage any sports fan to give it a go.

Pitch Quality

Players and coaches have come out in the media to criticise the pitch quality in the Copa America so far, claiming the inconsistencies have negatively affected team performance and the way teams prepare for matches.

Emi Martinez and Weston McKennie’s harsh words after matchday 1 forced a statement out of CONMEBOL who defended the state of the pitches, too much controversy.

It simply has to change for 2026 if it wants to remain fit to host football’s grandest event.

With the 2026 World Cup set to be played in many of the same venues across the United States, each new controversy over pitch conditions at Copa América accentuates the ongoing concerns about the quality of the venues and the difficulty of using NFL stadiums for football.

Conclusion

Affordability is the biggest issue needing to change going into the 2026 World Cup.

Ticket prices must be affordable to account for the hike in prices across the country for travel and accommodation.

With the 2026 World Cup held in three geographically large countries, fans will be forked to shell out thousands on travel if scheduled to play in differing countries and states.

However, overall, this World Cup has real potential to live up to the success of 1994 that saw the sport boom in popularity in North America and that surge in popularity is definitely required for the future of the sport in the US.

Football Australia sign multi-year deal with LCI Education

Football Australia have announced a multi-year deal with LCI Education’s Australian institution, LCI Melbourne, to become the Creative Higher Education Partner of the Socceroos, Matildas and all Australian Youth National Teams.

In a collaborative endeavour, LCI Melbourne will provide the Australian football community with bespoke creative design webinars and learning opportunities.

Select LCI students will also gain hands-on industry work experience in Football Australia’s award-winning Digital Content and Marketing Teams.

Football Australia’s marketing and creative department has received several awards, including a bronze at the 2024 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the CommBank Matildas campaign, ‘Til it’s Done’ and TikTok Australia Sports Creator of the Year 2023 for the Matildas account.

The collaboration is importantly going to give students a chance to work with an elite digital marketing team and hopefully continue producing world-class media content that has levelled up the popularity of the Matildas.

The power of media and the narrative is often understated, and Football Australia is putting an emphasis on continuing to grow in that aspect across all levels and age groups in order to build a bigger audience for the game.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson explained the importance of this collaboration for the development of the football community in Australia.

“Football can play an important role in enriching the lives of our participants whether socially, physically, mentally and now educationally,” Johnson said in a statement.

“We are pleased to be stretching our partnerships to embrace new ties to the higher education sector, supporting accessible, affordable, and accelerated education pathways to a wider variety of students.

“The growth opportunities at LCI Melbourne are exciting as we work together to enhance sporting and educational outcomes. We will empower students to dream big, think differently, and turn their artistic passions into powerful forces for change, thanks to the collaboration between LCI and Football Australia’s award-winning Marketing, Digital, and Media Team.

“We look forward to working with LCI to elevate our sport even further through innovative and impactful storytelling.”

President and CEO of LCI Education, Claude Marchand, spoke on the shared values between the two parties and their focus on impacting the football community with their product.

“Being associated with such a powerful, inclusive, and representative brand in Australia is significant for a global education community like LCI Education,” Marchand added via media release.

“We strongly believe that football, with its shared values of commitment, perseverance, initiative, and teamwork, unites our learners and staff across our 12 institutions located on five continents.

“This innovative partnership between LCI Melbourne and Football Australia will undoubtedly create a lasting impact in the community, as the union between education and sport is powerful in shaping tomorrow’s leaders!”

This expansion of the sport’s partnership footprint now sees football supported by some of Australia’s biggest values-based brands including Nike, CommBank, Subway, Qantas, Coles and others.

This partnership is a smart, proactive move by Football Australia to incorporate the two parties by consolidating the link between accessible higher education and the most participated sport in the country with a goal to emphasise diversity and inclusion.

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