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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.

The best of Asia unite for the AFC’s #BreakTheChain campaign

The AFC

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has united with some of the biggest names in Asian football to launch a new campaign that encourages people from around the world to play their role in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.

#BreakTheChain carries the message of solidarity in these difficult times and promotes the guidelines put in place by the World Health Organisation (WHO), focusing on good personal hygiene practices, social distancing and respecting the rules of self-quarantine.

The first instalment features eight of Asian football’s finest including 2018 AFC Women’s Player of the Year, Wang Shuang from China PR, Suwon Samsung Bluewings duo Terry Antonis and Doneil Henry as well as Korea Republic and Chelsea FC star Ji So-yun. The quartet are just some of Asian football’s stars who are doing their part to support communities across Asia.

It is part of the AFC’s continued commitment to its Member Associations and the Asian football family.

“In these unprecedented and challenging times, the AFC extends its wish that all members of the Asian football community remain safe and healthy,” said AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.

“Football will have an important role to play in the weeks and months ahead as the world returns to normality, but now our focus is firmly on protecting the well-being of all those who are involved in our great game.”

He also praised the AFC Member Associations for their cooperation and valuable feedback following the AFC’s decision to postpone several competitions, matches and events as part of efforts to ensure the safety and wellbeing of teams, players, fans and all stakeholders.

“These changes to our calendar were aimed at ensuring the safety and health of our Members, their officials, their players, their staff and, of course, the millions of fans who engage with football in Asia each year,” he added.

“Their health is, and always will be, our priority and that is why it is important that the AFC and all our Member and Regional Associations work with Governments and Health Agencies to curtail the threat of this virus and that everyone should take all precautions.

“The AFC strongly urges all its Members to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to exercise the highest levels of hygiene and are pleased to note that some Members have also declared a ‘work from home’ initiative.

“The AFC has built its strong foundations on unity and solidarity – particularly in the face of adversity – during the last six years and this situation is another challenge which we will take on together to protect not only our communities but also the future of our game.

“Of course, the AFC will take a strong lead and will, as always, be on hand to offer advice and assistance to any of our Member and Regional Associations in these uncertain times.”

How should Australian football best use its COVID-19 postponement?

FFA head James Johnson revealed the worst keep secret in Australian football early Tuesday morning; announcing the immediate suspension of A-League play on the back of the continued threat of COVID-19 . With states and territories having moved decisively on border control and lock down procedures, Johnson referred to a continuation as having become practically impossible.

The W-League did manage to squeeze their season in before the announcement was made, with a grand final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC last Saturday. The Melbourne City women may well be the last football team in Australia to win a championship for some time.

Words such as unprecedented, unique and testing have been common place in language over the past few weeks and the seriousness of the pandemic escapes no one at this time. Public health and prude governance are the most important aspects of the current situation, hopefully, wise decisions and action lead to a flattening of the curve and a slow return to normality over the next few months.

With around 1.8 million Australians who would normally be engaged with the beautiful game at this time of year in isolation and forbidden to compete, it would be prudent for FFA to think about encouraging behaviours that will benefit domestic football when it does eventually return.

As a first port of call, FFA should interact with the federations and ensure that junior players are sent age and skill appropriate drills to complete whilst confined to their home address. Many children will have a backyard in which to complete the drills, whilst others may be limited to small spaces available in apartments or town houses.

Technical directors could construct short clips and illustrated diagrams and then email and/or text the content to players using the official register in each federation.

Many young people will be feeling anxious about COVID-19, thanks to certain sections of the media that do little to encourage calm and thoughtful behaviour. Providing content for kids to work individually on their football skills would be a nice way to add a dose of normality for what will be a very strange time in their lives.

Slightly older players could also be engaged by their clubs, with coaching staff and technical consultants producing content they feel individual players need to work on. Within a supportive and digital environment, coaches might be able to set goals and objectives for the group and could potentially instil a competitive and diligent commitment to the drills that is so often lacking in junior players.

Players at NPL will find great challenges in maintaining fitness levels during the hiatus, with many young players no doubt living in high density situations with partners and young children. At a professional level, the AFL and NRL have set about the task of outlining fitness programs for their players that are adaptable to both indoor and outdoor environments. No doubt, the A-League will be following suit as we speak.

Many of the AFL players spoken to appeared at a loss as to how they would maintain fitness and skill levels without the expensive and vast resources of the football club to which they below. For NPL players it will be even more difficult, with the now closed local gyms the most common place for them to develop and maintain physical condition.

All NPL clubs need to establish a digital forum that includes the players, support staff and coaches in order to be pro-active during what appears likely to be an extended period away from the game. Once again, that sense of collegiality would be emotionally beneficial and with performance targets in place, the incentive to work collectively could potentially avoid any apathy that may occur in isolation.

The successful E-League concept should be immediately expanded with A and W League players engaged in play. A handful of players from each club with some X-BOX or PlayStation experience could be enlisted to play brief matches live on line, with the games streamed for fans to view via the club’s Facebook pages and the official A-League site.

The banter and enjoyment provided by what would no doubt be a comical yet also potentially competitive competition would further engage young fans and continue the objective of keeping the football community connected at this difficult time.

NPL New South Wales’ Facebook page is leading the way with lateral and creative thinking, already posting classic NPL matches for fans to view. The newly launched NPL.TV offers further potential in terms of streamed content and interaction and the National Premier Leagues’ #PlayAtHomeChallenge is a fun initiative that many players will be drawn to.

There is an emotional component to what all professional sport is about to encounter in Australia and monitoring and measuring that will prove difficult. The mind is fundamentally more important than the body and ensuring our football communities remain connected, active and positive is vitally important as most of us enter a period of isolation thanks to COVID-19.

Fox Sports staff cuts reinforce football is not a high priority

On Wednesday, Foxtel announced a host of cuts to its Fox Sports News division.

Of the expected 20 or so staff to lose their jobs, football reporters Daniel Garb and Carly Adno have confirmed their departures from the company.

Head of Fox Sports, Peter Campbell, told staff in a letter that the decision was based on a thorough review.

“Following a careful and considered review, we have today announced some changes to the programming of FOX SPORTS News which reduces the number of live news hours through the middle of weekdays and which unfortunately have resulted in a number of redundancies within the Australian News Channel (ANC) team that delivers FOX SPORTS News.

“Our customer audience analysis shows viewing of FOX SPORTS News now peaks in the morning and evening and on weekends, with low daytime viewership. Therefore we are going to focus on delivering live sports news and the channel’s marquee programs, including AFL Tonight, NRL Tonight and Cricket AM, during those peak periods.

“This decision is not about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on sport. It simply reflects viewers are consuming sports news in different ways and at different times together with the same challenging conditions in the advertising market that are impacting the entire entertainment industry.”

The company wants to focus their energy on morning sports bulletins and evening shows, which will also perform better on their on-demand streaming service Kayo Sports.

Campbell’s comments reiterate the idea that the AFL, NRL and Cricket are their marquee offerings, therefore it is in their best interests to improve their associated programming for these sports.

On the football side of things, the axing of Garb and Adno is a huge blow to the sport’s presence on the Fox Sports network.

Garb, in particular, has been a prominent footballing voice on Fox Sports News as well as the host of the weekly Fox Football Podcast.

The podcast itself has become more important in recent times, due to the lack of magazine shows on Fox Sports for the A-League.

Magazine shows such as Sunday Shootout and Just for Kicks were all axed by Fox in recent years.

The job cuts come after the news the A-League will play on and try to finish the season, even though there are concerns around the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, there is a possibility Fox Sports will look to get out of the TV deal they signed with the A-League in late 2016, if the competition was abandoned this season.

If the A-League fails to meet its obligations this season, it could give Fox Sports the opportunity to move its way out of a deal they are currently unhappy with due to the leagues declining ratings.

A-League decision makers plan to condense the season into a shorter timeframe, with the hope of finishing by mid-April.

PFA CEO John Didiluca told SMH: “As it stands now we have no certainty about what Fox will do in the event of the league having to be shut down – whether they choose to withhold funding or terminate the agreement.”

“All of these things are options and we just don’t have an answer about what that will be.

“The players are showing their commitment and good faith by putting their hands up and continuing to play. The nature of their choice is awful, effectively having to weigh up risks to their personal and public health on one hand with the knowledge the football economy could collapse on the other.

“Fox have helped us build our competitions from day one and we now need them stick with us more than ever. We are urging them to match the resilience and commitment that the players and the clubs are showing. This will give everybody within the football community some measure of certainty that the sport has a strong future.”

Although Fox may not be satisfied with their current deal with the A-League, outside of the NRL and AFL there is not a whole of sport to broadcast at the moment.

The A-League would have received pressure from Fox to continue the season, even though there is uncertainty Fox will continue broadcasting the competition in the future.

Fox seems to be using the A-League to boost its current lack of sport offerings on Kayo Sports, despite recently sacking one of its most influential voices.

Football is not a priority for the company at this stage, but rather a pawn they can easily influence in these uncertain times.

© 2019 Soccerscene Industry News. All Rights reserved.

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