Women’s football is ready to become the financial powerhouse it has always promised it would be.
So the time has come for more investment in our women footballers. There is no excuse.
The ratings for Matildas games during the Tokyo Olympics have been through the roof. The opening game against New Zealand at 8 pm (AEST) on a Wednesday night attracted 916,000 on Channel Seven, with many more following online on 7Plus. The game against Sweden had 1.4 million watch at 6 pm on a Saturday evening. Last Friday night’s 7 pm kick-off against Great Britain had a whopping 2.2 million Australians tune in.
While these ratings need to be put into perspective since it’s during the Olympics, one of the most popular events in the world, and this is all happening in the middle of a lockdown, the fact remains the Matildas have long been one of Australia’s most favourite sporting teams.
The Matildas players themselves are making a name for themselves, many on the world stage. The likes of Sam Kerr, Ellie Carpenter and Mary Fowler all play overseas.
Kerr is a genuine household name down under and would be known to Australians as much as Dustin Martin, David Warner, Ash Barty and so on.
While the reality is that post-Olympics ratings for Matilda games and indeed the Westfield W-League won’t be as high, the opportunity is there to sell Australian women’s football to many of the millions who have tuned in over the past fortnight, a number of whom have not taken much interest before but who now have a taste of what they have been missing.
Channel Ten and Paramount have signed a deal worth $300 million to cover Australian football which includes the men’s A-League, the W-League, FFA Cup and our national teams (outside of World Cups).
The Australian Professional League (APL), who are the independent body now running the A-League and W-League, are seeking an estimated $100-150M in private equity.
There are ample funds available now to invest in women’s football, and crucially it is realistic to expect to reap a decent return for it.
It has long been argued that women’s football doesn’t bring in the revenue to sustain equal pay and better investment. Well now there is a genuine chance to generate that income. The TV ratings at the Olympics prove that it is possible.
The 2023 Women’s World Cup is coming to Australia and New Zealand. There is every reason to believe the ratings for that tournament in Australia will be significantly higher than what we are getting for the Olympics now.
In fact, the worldwide audience will dwarf what we are seeing now.
The crowds at games, too, will be nothing like we have ever seen before in women’s sport.
Investment includes but goes well beyond marketing. It involves providing the right infrastructure and platform for women’s football to thrive.
This includes facilities, coaching and job security. While millions are being invested across the country for facilities including women’s specific change rooms, this has to be matched with what is invested in the participants directly.
Paying players and coaches a decent wage is a start. At present, the minimum wage for a W-League player is $16,344 for a 15-week season (including finals). Coaches on average make $25-35,000 for the season, whereas an assistant coach makes roughly $10,000.
Matildas players who are contracted (21 of them) get better deals, with a base salary ranging from $40-83,000 without factoring in bonuses or prize money.
The above figures may have been fine for years gone by, but now, considering the popularity of women’s football and the investment coming in from the new broadcast deal and private equity, there is every reason to increase these figures substantially.
Paying players more gives them time and energy to focus on their development, leading to a better-quality football product. This will enhance the already entertaining W-League and our Matildas team.
Paying coaches better means they can develop better footballers and increase performance.
This in turn will attract fans and generate more revenue from gate takings, merchandise and more. More fans attract sponsors too. Critically, a bigger crowd enhances an atmosphere and thus makes the product look even better on TV, meaning the next broadcast deal will be even better.
It is a simple economic cycle.
The money also needs to go into grassroots. Enhancing the NPLW senior and junior systems is vital. Creating stronger and feasible pathways as well as giving coaches at development levels better resources can only help the W-League and Matildas.
Our national youth teams haven’t made the last seven youth World Cups and the lack of funding at those levels is a key reason for this. If we allow our girls to play at a high level early they will become better footballers.
One of the principles established by Football Australia was to have a thriving ecosystem where our best players are sold overseas. It is another stream of revenue for Australian football clubs.
If we invest in players at the youth and senior level, we can have more Sam Kerrs or Ellie Carpenters or Mary Fowlers. They will be in high demand overseas and can provide a major cash boost for Australian football.
As the Matildas charge for Australian football’s first-ever medal at an Olympic Games, there is no more room for excuses. Over to you Football Australia and APL.