No longer will top-tier football be divided by gender or age, becoming one of the first national competitions to include the women, men and youth under the same umbrella of the A-League.
Having had the A-league for men but the W-League for women and Y-League for youth, this change has been brought in to ensure that all players are seen as partners regardless of their gender or age. Unifying under the one banner sends a clear message to all those involved, young and old, that gender equality and inclusivity is a priority and will assist with the growth of the game in this country.
There will now be A-League Men, A-League Women and A-League Youth, with social media accounts to also be connected for the organisation and competition.
“It’s not men’s football or women’s football, it’s just football”, Australian Professional Leagues CEO Danny Townsend said, and it really is as simple as that. To be opposed to this decision is a clear statement in itself, and if anyone truly doesn’t want female athletes promoted and seen as equals, then I don’t think that this conversation is about female athletes but females in general.
The changes made may seem minor to some and may potentially go unnoticed to others, but they’re changes that many other major sports in Australia haven’t made. When discussed they’re often met with backlash. The AFL competition belongs to the men, while the women get the AFLW, their own space to play.
Considering the response from those who neither watch nor respect the profession of female athletes, I am surprised that they call themselves fans of the game at all. On top of that, the outrage that so many express when the AFL competition is referred to as ‘AFLM’ is childish and honestly embarrassing.
For women to be considered equal in a space that has been largely taken up by men appears to some as a huge ask, and yet isn’t equal opportunity something we want for every man, woman, girl, mother, father or child? It should be the bare minimum.
Females have been limited in the sporting world on the big stage for far too long, which needs to be understood by all, and it has an impact across most sports in Australia today. The responsibility is not on just our female athletes, journalists, umpires and supporters to promote the game; it is on those who sit in positions of power and are making important decisions. The responsibility is on everyone, whether it’s your local sports club or whether you’re sitting on the board for the A-League.
What more could you do to promote and encourage female athletes in your community? If we want to diminish the gap between male and female athletes and see them promoted on an equal level, then strong and decisive measures need to be put into place to send a clear message.
Former English cricketer and now commentator Isa Guha wrote, “We will use our voices to push women’s sport to the forefront and grow the game as much as we can. Because you cannot be what you cannot see.”
That ideas has stuck with me for years and truly highlights the importance of promoting sport for young women. This change by the A-League does exactly that.
The A-League should be applauded for taking a step towards actively promoting and encouraging unity for all in their organisation. Our children’s children will giggle in disbelief when we tell them stories of how women didn’t have a national A-League competition until 2008 or an AFL competition until 2017 – to think how petty some people’s reactions have been.