Grassroots football clubs around Sydney hoping to capitalise on the success of the Matilda’s incredible World Cup run, have seen as much as a 25 per cent increase in registrations and expect to see further significant growth in 2024.
The 2023 FIFA Women’s tournament captivated the nation, galvanising interest in the women’s game and was so successful it spawned a range of funding initiatives to boost the sport.
More than 1.7 million tickets were sold during the tournament, a 54 per cent increase from the the 2019 World Cup held in France.
Local footballing clubs say parents have inundated them with requests and inquiries regarding their children taking up the sport.
Kay Harris, Leichhardt Saints Football Club spokeswoman, told Central News the experience was amazing to observe different local communities engage with football.
“What I found is that there [was] a huge amount of interest during the World Cup itself [where] we started getting inquiries at that stage from parents of both boys and girls,” she said.
“I think it made a lot of people very interested in football and they could see what a great team sport it was.”
She added most clubs are following the interest closely, however they will have a clear picture in early 2024 when registration figures are released.
We need a lot more than $200 million to really make a mark, a concrete mark but that’s an important first step.
“We run a girls’ and women’s summer competition and we had already planned to expand that… it’s grown by 25 per cent on registration from last year,” she said.
Media organisations who broadcast the tournament saw their viewership figures skyrocket, with the Seven Network reporting that 18.6 million viewers followed the 15 licensed tournament games, including 14.76 million watching live broadcasts and 3.82 million on 7Plus.
Also, Optus Sports’ coverage of the tournament saw them receive the highest numbers of viewers on their platforms, with 75 per cent on TV, and interaction with online content up too.
The success led the federal government to initially announce $200 million in ‘play your way’ funding to ensure more Australian women and girls get access to world class sporting facilities and equipments.
Football club representatives see it as a good first step but believe more needs to be done while also being skeptical in regard to how much funding football will receive.
Cormac Begley, the Football Development Australia head coach, believes some of that funding should be dedicated towards building more world class, multi-purpose sporting facilities across the states and programs that will allow more women into coaching and senior management positions.
“You look at any investment and that’s significant, you know, so long as it’s used in the right way [with] things like… infrastructure [and] coaching,” he said. “We need a lot more than $200 million to really make a mark, a concrete mark but that’s an important first step and people want to see what they do.
Massive night for Aus football, so looking forward to seeing which Aus media personality tweets out ways to improve the world's most popular sport that is enjoyed by billions
We've had 'get rid of offsides', I'm betting we get 'goals outside the box should count double' tonight
— Nick Stoll (@NickStoll) August 7, 2023
“I think those are the types of things that a little goes a long way and also making sure that female coaches understand that [there are] opportunities… if you’re going into coaching you could get a job out of it here or overseas.
“It remains to be seen where they’re going to use that money specifically, is it going to be infrastructure like a centre of excellence type of situation or put that money in the W-League clubs?”
Additionally, state governments committed significant funding with Victoria investing $15 million in the construction of a purpose-built football centre, New South Wales (NSW) allocating $14.5 million to school programs in conjunction with A-League clubs, Western Australia investing $45.96 million in a state-of-the-art football centre and Queensland dedicating $37 million to a women’s football legacy fund.
Begley reckons the new admiration of football, especially women’s football needs to be harnessed to deal with issues in sports such as representation and gender equality which can inspire future generations.
“It’s amazing to see nowadays more [and] more… female assistants refereeing games in Germany, as an example, and I think it’s a great thing especially [for] the young generation to see,” he said.
“We’ve seen so many amazing female coaches at the World Cup, Serena Weigman the England coach is a prime example… just an incredible coach [who’s] so well spoken, so articulate, [and] so humble in defeat and victory.
“I think seeing all those role models succeed and seeing how good they are at what they do, just evens the playing field, but then there has been action behind that.
“In terms of females getting these opportunities [and] being involved both administratively and [at] the highest levels of the game, it’s really important making sure that they have access to all qualifications and good opportunities are presented to them.”
There is just a different feel to the female form of the game, given that so many young boys and men were also inspired by the Matildas… I think sponsors may realise the female game is more marketable.
According to research conducted by Standard Media Index, the advertising industry received a 58.6 per cent boost due to the Matildas successful run to the latter stages of the tournament, with streaming services focusing on sports adverts.
Denise Robinson, NorthWest Sydney Football manager, believes women’s football is a smart investment for local businesses due to the Matildas success and financial support plays an important role in helping academies to be more sustainable.
“I think local sponsors will want to support female football more because they saw what it did during the world cup, they would be crazy not to,” she said.
“There is just a different feel to the female form of the game, given that so many young boys and men were also inspired by the Matildas [and] I think sponsors may realise the female game is more marketable.”
She also sees this as an opportunity for parents to be more involved in the game and their kids lives which will bring a sense of camaraderie in the community and helps with bonding.
👏 @TheMatildas are an absolute inspiration.
You’ve shown incredible skill, ferocity and flair, and a camaraderie that defines what it means to play team sport. pic.twitter.com/khWWWoiV22
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) August 16, 2023
“Parents will step up to become a coach or manager of their child’s team more readily as they will be able to go to work on Monday and talk football with [their] colleagues, also be proud to say they coach or manage their daughters’ team,” Robinson added.
“Prior to [the] Matildas success, I would say some teams struggled to encourage parents to take on these roles [but] sponsorship can go a long way to help clubs with uniforms, trophies, coaching courses, player resources.”
Significantly, Sydney football clubs think the consequences of the tournament will be far reaching and aim to use it to develop more future stars who will represent the nation and usher in more success on the international stage.
Harris remarked that young football players will be motivated to pursue a football career, if they see clear pathways to the elite level and the national teams.
“I think for any sports, looking at elite level players it must have that trickle-down effect so that young players have that dream of wanting to become a Matilda or Socceroo,” she said.
“That’s great because it gives young players that motivation to train and practise and to get better, so being attached to the national team it’s part of the fun of team sport and it also teaches some great lessons as well.”
Main images generated by Dall-e.