Women’s AFL vs W-League: All in the timing?

The Doc Roar Pro

By The Doc, The Doc is a Roar Pro


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    Despite the Bulldogs' best attempts, Katie Brennan will miss the AFLW grand final (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

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    The success of the Women’s Australian Football League (AFLW) has certainly taken me by surprise. Perhaps I should not have been surprised at all given the AFL’s deep coffers.

    I should firstly say this article is not to set off some code war. I love all sports and feel that there is a place for all of them to work amicably together in an increasingly crowded Australian market.

    There are many reasons for the success of the AFLW. The marketing and promotion has been good, there is free-to-air coverage and the free access to games is a massive boon to all sporting fans. But the biggest factor is the clever timing of the league.

    In a crowded market, the AFLW has found a pocket of space to insert a short eight game league. It does not clash with the men’s league and is essentially competing with A-League and NBL for media coverage.

    The W-League has been around for since 2008 and even in its first year it was nowhere near as popular as the AFLW.

    This is based on game attendances where all attendances bar the grand final (4554) were less than 1400. This is compared to the current AFLW crowd average of 10,366.

    Sandwiched within the A-League, the W-League struggles to find room to breathe when played directly next to its more established men’s equivalent. The difference certainly cannot be participation levels as the AFL quotes total female participation at 380,000 (breakdown not available) as opposed to association football where there are more than 100,000 registered female participant in outdoor competition.

    It is difficult to compare sports but the skill level of the W-AFLW is still developing when compared to the slightly more polished version of the W-league and so I doubt that this accounts for the difference.

    I do not follow the Melbourne Victory women’s team yet I seem to have become emotionally invested in the Carlton women team. This is a personal thing but I believe that had the women’s league been played within the men’s season, I gravely doubt I would have taken much of an interest.

    Conversely, if the W-League was played at a different time to the A-League, I would most likely have taken a greater interest in the women’s Melbourne Victory team.

    Ultimately, the timing of the AFLW allows it to benefit from being in a quiet part of the sporting calendar, and this is the biggest factor that has enabled its early success in the Australian sporting market.

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • February 18th 2017 @ 4:59am
      Peeeko said | February 18th 2017 @ 4:59am | ! Report

      Get ready for another code war

    • Roar Guru

      February 18th 2017 @ 7:39am
      mds1970 said | February 18th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      Your article raises an interesting point. Giving AFLW its own window away from the men’s comp has certainly helped give it plenty of oxygen for publicity; and the footy-starved public have taken to it.
      To a lesser extent, the WBBL did something similar last summer, with a weekend where there was no other televised cricket having four WBBL games shown live; and drawing some encouraging ratings. The rest of the WBBL was played at the same time as the men’s comp; but on that weekend we saw that giving women their own window helped generate interest.

      Whether there’s a similar opportunity for the W-League, I’m not sure. Maybe they could start their season in September and play day games during the weekends when AFL & NRL finals are played at night. They’d need a broadcaster willing to show games during those weekends – Fox Sports should be willing to do that.

      • February 18th 2017 @ 10:39am
        Nemesis said | February 18th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        WLeague is not competing for hearts & minds of AFL & NRL fans. WLeague is competing for hearts & minds of ALeague fans & NPL/grassroots football fans.

        Play your AFL & NRL whenever you want.

        We will play ALeague & WLeague whenever we want.

        Football is the only sport in Australia that captures the full 12 month calendar with organised sport:

        ALeague: October to May
        WLeague: November to February
        NPL (every State & Territory, apart from NT): February to September
        State Leagues & Grassroots (every State & Territory across AUS): March to September

        • February 18th 2017 @ 12:38pm
          Ben said | February 18th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

          Well said Nemesis!

    • Roar Rookie

      February 18th 2017 @ 7:54am
      Stevo said | February 18th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      Why has the ‘success’ of the AFLW taken people by surprise? The comp has been groomed and promoted in the AFL friendly media for over a year now – remember the exhibition matches? The teams are associated with established clubs to tap into membership, there has been free entry and marquee games to open the season and there is no high profile men’s comp sucking attention away from it. Does that not give people a clue about how well it’s been marketed? Good luck to the ladies but let’s get real about how we analyses this. And the 380,000 versus 100,000 paid and registered players. Trumpian comparison at work.

      • Roar Pro

        February 18th 2017 @ 1:31pm
        The Doc said | February 18th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

        Thanks for your comment Stevo. Was waiting for someone to point that statistics issue out. I tried hard to find a like for like statistic but the afl quoted total participation and the best I could find from the FFA was female players registered in outdoor competition. I am more than happy to be corrected by someone who can provide a more accurate statistical comparison.

        • February 18th 2017 @ 1:36pm
          northerner said | February 18th 2017 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

          The only more or less “neutral” figure is the one from the ASC’s Ausplay survey but it was done in 2015, if memory serves so it’s already outdated. I’m pretty sure that the figure for female participation in football was above the 100,000 mark, and for Aussie Rules was well below it. But a lot could have changed in that 18 months or so.

    • February 18th 2017 @ 9:11am
      BrainsTrust said | February 18th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      The real problem with the W-league is playing in the middle of the day in the summer heat.
      While the men are dodging the heat by playing in the evening.
      The toughest challenge in mens world cup qualifying is playing in extreme heat.
      A number of world cup qualification matches would be over the cancellation limit for an A-league match.
      The experience in the A-league is invaluable for the mens in preparing for this.
      For the women however its counter productive, every top womens teams is in a colder climate in Asia.
      If the matches are played in a cold climate they will played at a faster pace unlike the day time matches in the W-league. The W-league
      A number of teams will resort to using men in international competition,usually the lower standard ones, there was an article on Iran having more males than females, North Korea you have to wonder about,. There are a very large number of highly developed young male athletes in football in this country, the first stage would be to give some girls more of those opportunities , parents in this country spend an absolute fortune on the boys versus little on the girls . The women are too shy against playing repeatedly against the young males, whom are training a lot of hours from a very young age, I think get the W-league teams and give them a lot of matches against u13 to u15 teams for a variety of levels would provide more practice than a short W-league season.
      I don’t see much point in worrying about the commercial aspect. the A-league has to compete with a lot of leagues overseas already, for the W-league to get a look in the only way would be if it was broadcast on free to air where there is hardly any sport shown.
      The AFLW it can really propsper in its slot, but the W-league has other leagues to compete with even if it avoids the A-league.

    • February 18th 2017 @ 10:32am
      Nemesis said | February 18th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      By every SPORTING measure, the WLeague is a huge success and achieves targets the AFLW will never achieve in the next millennium.

      1) The WLeague is a proper sporting competition to provide a pathway for the best female footballers in Australia

      2) The WLeague is not, never was, and never will be, driven by TV ratings or crowds. The WLeague is a competition driven by the need to have a football competition for Women.

      E.g. If AFLW TV numbers & crowds were to drop to the level of the WLeague, would the AFL continue with women’s AFL, or would it be shelved? The FFA will maintain a WLeague competition, regardless of crowds or TV ratings, because a national football competition is vital for women’s football in Australia.

      3) The WLeague is now attracting female footballers from around the globe who have represented their nations at World Cups (full senior level & junior level) & Olympic Games. Now, in its 9th year, the WLeague attracts foreign players from clubs in Europe & USA during their off-season and WLeague players move to Europe & USA during the WLeague off season.

      For sure, if TV ratings and crowd numbers are the only criteria you use to judge the worthiness of a sport, then AFLW wins big time.

      If quality of the players, quality of the competition, and the ability to produce players who can successfully compete at international level are the criteria you use to judge the worthiness of sport, then WLeague, WNBL, women’s field hockey, etc. etc. are the leagues that actually produce top quality female athletes.

      AFLW will produce top quality TV personalities.

      • February 18th 2017 @ 12:42pm
        Ben said | February 18th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

        Nemesis goes BANG!

      • Roar Pro

        February 18th 2017 @ 2:21pm
        The Doc said | February 18th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

        Thanks For your comments Nemesis! All good points. The FFA have done a great job with the W-league. There are many ways to define success and you have listed several that I did not mention except I wasn’t seeking to outline why AFLW is better than W-league just that AFLW early commercial success can be largely attributed to it’s timing.
        With regards to later comments, You could argue that AFL has now done several of those things albeit later, that is create a competition for women. Whether or not they would push on with the AFLW if attendances or ratings fell is unknown and only those inside the AFL would know that. But let’s hope that both leagues continue to get full support from their commissions regardless of attendances or tv ratings

    • February 18th 2017 @ 10:42am
      c said | February 18th 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

      i am surprised that female participation in afl is at 380,000 and football is at 100,000 when football has the largest participation nationally surely there are independent statistics to verify the authenticity of these claims

      • February 18th 2017 @ 11:05am
        Nemesis said | February 18th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        Those figures are Donald Trump style ALT-Facts.

        Aussie Rules has incredibly small numbers of female participants compared to Football.

        • Roar Guru

          February 18th 2017 @ 11:25am
          Cat said | February 18th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

          So many people play soccer, allegedly, yet the crowds and tv ratings in this country are pathetic. A league should be a juggernaut with all that interest … yet its grand final set a record of 360k ratings (metro and regionals combined), sad record that it is. Which is only 4-5million behind AFL and NRL Grand Finals.

          • February 18th 2017 @ 11:40am
            Nemesis said | February 18th 2017 @ 11:40am | ! Report

            You’ve filled your comments with non sequiturs.

            Football is a sport.

            Sport is the foundation – the very essence, the “raison d’être” – for having a football competition.

            ALeague is the national competition for men’s football in Australia. It is created to be a sporting competition for the best male footballers in Australia

            ALeague was not created for the amusement of spectators.

            ALeague was not created to be a TV show for the amusement of TV viewers.

            If people want to watch ALeague – that’s terrific.

            If people don’t want to watch ALeague – so be it. It will still be the national competition for the best male footballers in Australia.

            Only in Australia, people seem to equate the value of sport with TV ratings & crowds. This is probably because many Aussies are ignorant about sport. They’re too fat & lazy to ever play sport, but they enjoy watching shows on TV.

            • February 18th 2017 @ 9:09pm
              Rasty said | February 18th 2017 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

              Incorrect. The AFL is the competition for mens football. I think you are the ignorant one judging by your posts and my guess is that you are also a lard a$%e.

      • Roar Pro

        February 18th 2017 @ 1:36pm
        The Doc said | February 18th 2017 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

        Thanks for your comment C. As per my reply to Stevo above, it was difficult to find a like for like statistic to compare female participation in each sport. Afl quotes total participation which is a very wide net but I could not find that same statistic. 100,000 refers to females registered in outdoor competitions which I think is excellent as there is many other playing indoor, futsal that won’t be included in that number

        • February 18th 2017 @ 2:31pm
          c said | February 18th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

          so total participation would include females and males or am I missing something

        • February 18th 2017 @ 3:20pm
          Nemesis said | February 18th 2017 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

          @The Doc

          1) For Adults (aged 15 & older), the ABS produced data in 2011/12, which seems to be the most current data

          Source: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Previousproducts/4177.0Main%20Features22011-12?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4177.0&issue=2011-12&num=&view=

          Female participation 15yrs & older (000s)

          Netball = 411
          Football (outdoor) = 121
          Basketball (indoor & outdoor) = 109
          Hockey (indoor & outdoor) = 74

          For the sports listed below participation was so low, that the ABS issues a warning about the data “the estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.”

          Soccer (indoor) = 28
          Aussie Rules = 19
          Cricket (outdoor) = 13
          Rugby League = 9
          Cricket (indoor) = 7
          Rugby Union = 5

          2) For Kids, Roy Morgan Research published data in 2015
          Source: http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/6563-more-girls-now-playing-soccer-than-netball-201511240022

          Apologies, the figures I’ve given are both boys & girls.
          Will have to do some analysis to give girls only.

          • February 18th 2017 @ 3:32pm
            Nemesis said | February 18th 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

            Ok the Roy Morgan Data gives

            1) Total Participation for Boys & Girls aged 6-13

            Football = 1,244,000
            Basketball = 760,000
            Cricket = 651,000
            Netball = 514,000
            Aussie Rules = 474,000

            2) Of the total girls who play sport (we are not given a figure for total no. of girls playing sport), Roy Morgan provides figures for the “% of girls playing each of the higher participation sports”.

            So, when we analyse only girls who play sport, these are the % who play each of the higher participation sports

            Football = 39%
            Netball = 37%
            Cricket = 19%
            Aussie Rules = 9%

            • February 18th 2017 @ 4:53pm
              c said | February 18th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

              should clear it up for doc fuss and he should issue a correction to his article