By now I’m sure we’re all aware of the APL’s plans to expand the W-League by 1 team for this season and another 2 in the 22/23 season. With the Wellington Phoenix launching a team ahead of the 2021/22 season and the Central Coast Mariners and Western United to enter teams the following season. The move will see more games, an expanded finals series and surely a move to make football the number 1 sport for young girls who want to play a sport.
It’s a great move for football in Australia and surely wouldn’t have come along had the TV rights stayed with Fox Sports. The move to Channel 10 and Paramount plus is a big factor in the speed up of the expansion process.
The very fact that Football both international and domestically is back on free to air is obviously a big coup for football. The FFA tried to have football on free to air when the failed attempt to play the match of the A-League round on SBS along with Fox Sports. Channel 10 is widely viewed as a legitimate Free-to-Air broadcaster. And with this move, clearly the APL feel that they will appeal to wider audience, one not reached in the history of the A-League/W-League.
There are also plans for a Teams Championship, combing points from both Women’s and Men’s competitions points. This is a great idea in theory, however with not every A-League team having a W-League team attached and one W-League team Canberra United not have an A-League side.
This opens the doors for 2 options or directions for the APL to move in. The first is probably the easiest and cheapest in the short term. For Canberra United, the sole W-league club without a men’s team, they could simply sign a A-League affiliate to be their men’s representative. The most likely option for them would be the Macarthur FC. Closest by geography and a team that probably isn’t in the position to create their own W-League side since they are only 1 season old themselves. And for the APL it would save the headaches of putting in another A-League side so soon after Western United and Macarthur FC joined. Two teams who 90% of A-League fans would agree, didn’t deserve to be put in before the likes of Canberra and Wollongong, but I guess money talks right?
The biggest bonus for this option would be it allows Macarthur a few extra years to grow and then start a W-League side and buys the APL at least 2 years to expand the league to Canberra and Wollongong or if not Wollongong another state. Possibly a 2nd team in Queensland permanently playing out of the Sunshine coast stadium.
The other option would be to fast track an A-League expansion side in the next 2 years to Canberra and put pressure on Macarthur to produce a W-League side by the 2022/23 season. For the A-League expansion side of this, I don’t think there would be too much of an issue. It feels like Canberra has been waiting for a long time to get a team in the A-League, so the plans are probably very advanced for the bid team, and the W-League team is already in place, so Suppliers, Sponsors, Kit Manufacturer and training ground partnerships are already established. On the Macarthur FC W-League side, it wouldn’t be too difficult. They have the same sort of partnerships in place, the local NPLW side the Macarthur Rams have some of the best W-League players playing for them during the offseason, so finding the talent shouldn’t be hard. The big hurdle would be whether the club themselves would be interested in entering a team from the financial side.
I am well aware of the financial issues when it comes to the domestic competition of Football in Australia. Its pretty much the only reason we don’t have a national 2nd division or promotion and relegation. The debate between using already established state NPL teams or bringing in new teams will always rage. The only reason the APL would choose NPL teams would be the financial benefit of already established clubs with fanbases. But the reason the A-League started was because of the issues that arose from the NPL. And to be fair, while we haven’t seen the fan issues in the A-League, the attendances and passion hasn’t really come close to the way it was in the old NSL.
Since the APL took a controlling stake in the Domestic competitions, the messaging surrounding the growth of the game in Australia has been positive. And it has backed up its statements. We have a new TV rights holder that has invested in the future of the game, not just financially but by giving it a platform to be shown to more potential fans. They are very vocal in there plans to grow the womens game in Australia and giving them more time on TV, along with actually covering the games with the respect we just didn’t see from Fox Sports over the last 2 seasons. The plans to grow the W-League have been backed up with action already, and I for one have been calling for a longer W-League season for a while now, and I’m glad they’ve finally listened to the fans.
The positive future may some day mean that our best Matildas players and great womens players around the world may once again see value in playing in the W-League, rather than looking to overseas leagues to make a living.