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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.

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.

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.

Bundesliga looks to become the first sustainable league in the world – will Australia follow?

The German Football League (DFL), the body which governs the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, recently outlined their ambitions to become the world’s first carbon neutral domestic football leagues.

On August 19, the DFL announced that clubs would take a vote in December of this year on whether to include environmental sustainability as a part of its licensing requirements.

Environmental sustainability has been placed at the forefront of the DFL’s objectives over the past six months, through their Taskforce for the Future of Professional Football.

The taskforce, which is made up of 36 business, sport and political experts also looks to focus their energy on other topics such as financial stability, communication with fans and supporting the growth of the professional women’s game.

“This is only the first step of a marathon,” Christian Pfennig, member of the DFL management board, explained to Forbes.

“Our goal is to anchor sustainability oriented to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as another key factor in our licensing program by 2022/23. Then the following year, we want to introduce incentives, but also sanctions should a club fail to meet the minimum criteria.”

The criteria itself will be finalised with external experts in the coming weeks and months.

Multiple German clubs have been extremely well received for their commitment to sustainability over the years.

Wolfsburg, who are currently first in the Bundesliga this season, were ranked the most environmentally sustainable club earlier this year in a report conducted by Sport Positive.

The report highlighted Wolfsburg’s dedication to using 100 per cent green energy across the club by using bioplastic cups and for ensuring zero landfill waste, whilst offering vegan options at their stadium on game-day. The club’s website also contains a corporate responsibility page with information about climate protection and environmental initiatives, as they plan to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Freiburg have used solar energy at their Schwarzwald-Stadion since 1993, with their new stadium to follow suit when it opens in October. The new facility will also have green energy storage and plug-in charging stations.

In 2010, Mainz became the Bundesliga’s and one of the world’s first carbon neutral football clubs.

These promising examples and many others have generally been taken individually , but the DFL now wants to centralise its approach to sustainability.

“The most important step now is to create a framework for the different clubs that are part of the DFL, from a Champions League participant to teams promoted from the third division,” Pfennig said.

It’s a significant task, but the DFL believe they have to play a role in pursuing the best practices in tackling social issues, but they keep a realistic head in their objectives.

“There is no ideal world or ideal football, Pfennig said.

“We are aware that we will have to adjust our goals, also taking into account the background of an enormous change in all areas of life. That’s why we need a framework and always work in improving our goals.”

The centralised method has been successful for the implementation of other initiatives such as Supporter Liaison Officer’s (SLOs) and improvement of youth academies.

These works, which are part of the DFL’s licensing framework, have been copied by other countries around the world and Australia should be keeping a keen eye on them.

While looking to Germany may be a good guide for improving fan to club relations and youth academy developments, they should especially look to follow their upcoming sustainability guidelines.

Australian clubs should be further focusing on improving their efforts towards sustainability, in a country which generally fails to meet any of those types of objectives.

It may be a difficult initial transition but clubs will eventually benefit from this push in the years to come.

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