It is time to expand the W-League

Janakan Seemampillai Roar Rookie

By , Janakan Seemampillai is a Roar Rookie

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    Women’s football is hot right now, and the FFA should capitalise!

    Building up the game while it is in the public eye will show girls and women around Australia there are pathways to the top. At the moment there are only 144 places available on playing rosters via the nine existing W-League clubs, nowhere near enough to cater for the rampant growth of female football.

    There are currently over 250,000 women playing football across the country. This is significantly more than ten years ago when the W-League was born (with eight teams). Since then the W-League has lost the Central Coast Mariners and gained Melbourne City and Western Sydney Wanderers.

    So in effect the league has only expanded by one team in a period when female participation has boomed.

    Earlier this month the FFA and the players union, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), announced a major new pay deal for female players which will see wages double (salary cap increased to $300,000 and average wage increased to $17,400 for 2017/18).

    Along with a ramped up TV deal for the W-League (24 live games on Foxtel), things are heading on an upward trajectory for female football. The Matildas have gone from 14th in 2008 to fourth in the world now as well. All of this points to expansion.

    However, the question is where? NSW has four teams from Newcastle in the north to Sydney FC in the east to the Wanderers in the west to Canberra in the far south. Victoria has two teams based around Melbourne. South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland all have one each.

    Western Sydney Wanderers' W-League side celebrates the goal of Catherine Cannuli

    (Image: Peter McAlpine)

    The Central Coast Mariners have made noises about re-entering the W-League. However, there is an argument their catchment area is already serviced by Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC.

    The Wellington Phoenix have also put their hand up but this would be a disastrous move considering the struggles of the men’s team who may not be in the competition in the long term.

    The logical thing would be to add another team in Queensland to take advantage of the growth in female football there. The success of the Brisbane Roar ladies team – who had the second best average crowd last season with 2,478 (behind Newcastle Jets with 2,650) – illustrates this will be a good move.

    Football Queensland announced in July this year their plans to expand National Premier Leagues Women’s Queensland league to 14 teams, a sign of the demand for female football in the state.
    In Victoria, South Melbourne have made it very clear they would like a women’s team competing at the national level.

    The club has made its intentions clear about getting a team in the A league but have been just as adamant they are equipped to get a women’s team in as well. South easily finished first in their inaugural WNPL season this year and will play in the grand final tomorrow against Geelong Galaxy United.

    South have even had joint training sessions between their mens and womens teams showing their commitment to equality.

    Speaking of Geelong, the region is thriving when it comes to female football. There were 71 female only teams in Geelong in 2017 spread across the local league, state league and WNPL.

    Galaxy United have made grand finals in each of the two years they have existed, with a team filled with local products. The junior teams at Galaxy United are also thriving and show the future of female football in the region is highly promising.

    In NSW, Southern Expansion who are aiming to get an A league team by 2019 have also been eager to put a team in the W league. The southern part of NSW has a huge football population and would probably be the favourite when getting a new A-League and W-League team.

    Southern Expansion is also backed by a rich Chinese consortium, property giant JiaYuan. Investment in female football is vital and Southern expansion would bring significant capital to the W league.

    The 2017-18 W league season gets underway on Friday 28 October 2017 when traditional rivals Sydney FC take on Brisbane Roar.