After the spectacular run that the Matildas made in the Women’s World Cup sparked an unparalleled outpouring of support for women’s football, the Albanese administration has committed to spending an additional $200 million to upgrade women’s sporting facilities and equipment.
As the Matildas prepare for their third-place playoff match against Sweden in Brisbane on Saturday, the government will announce that the national team has “changed the sport forever.” In addition, the government will release a new financial package and flag plans to make more critical events available on free-to-air television. All of these announcements will take place at the same time.
Sam Kerr, captain of Australia, expressed her hope that the highly successful Women’s World Cup was “the start of something new” following Wednesday’s loss to England in the semi-finals. Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has also asked for additional investment.
The new grants program, which will be called Play Our Way and will be announced by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, would have money available for all types of sports. The government anticipates that soccer will require a sizeable sum due to the “mind-boggling increase in interest” that clubs have seen after the conclusion of the World Cup.
The government has stated that the money will be used to “promote equal access, build more suitable facilities, and support grassroots initiatives to get women and girls to engage, stay, and participate in sport throughout their lives,” although the grant parameters have not yet been finalized.
“The Matildas have given us a moment of national inspiration; this is about seizing that opportunity for the next generation, and investing in community sporting facilities for women and girls all around Australia,” Albanese said.
In addition, the government will publish a study on potential reforms to anti-siphoning regulations in order to increase the number of large events that are shown on free-to-air television. The Matildas’ semi-final match versus England drew the highest number of viewers of any program since the current rating system was put into place.
Channel Seven only showed 15 matches during the World Cup, but Optus Sport was able to purchase the rights to all of the games in the tournament. This includes both Matildas matches and the finals.
In a statement released on Friday afternoon, Gustavsson argued that increased funding for football was necessary for Australia to “keep up with the bigger nations.”
“The players are there, and so is the passion that they have for the sport. It is providing them with an equal opportunity… to ensure that there is investment in grassroots football so that more people can play and remain involved in the game for a longer period of time. ensuring that there are viable options for each and every player in the game. Check to see that the playing facilities are available. It all boils down to money spent,” he explained.
Following play on Wednesday, Steve Kerr stated that “We need funding in our development.” We require financial support at the grassroots level. We require funding in every possible area.”
Australian Institute of Health as well as Welfare estimates that there are over 1.2 million Australians aged 15 and older who participate in the sport. This number is approximately twice as high as the number of people who play Australian Rules Football, netball, or cricket combined.
In spite of the fact that it is the sport that is played the most in Australia, it has been argued for a very long time that it does not receive sufficient funding in comparison to other sports.
The Australian Sports Commission plans to spend around $5.3 million on football during this current fiscal year. These expenditures will include money to prepare for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024. The Australian Institute of Sport, grant programs, free sporting school programs, commercial revenue streams, and money from player registration fees are some of the additional sources of funding that are available.
Kerry Harris, a sports administrator and the chairwoman of Women Onside, stated that the nature of the sporting landscape had shifted, and as a result, the funding model required reevaluation. “It is well knowledge that football is the sport with the highest number of participants in Australia. Is that the foundation for it? Is that an effective metric to use? “It’s just one piece of the puzzle,” she remarked.
“Everyone is talking about money for infrastructure, which is excellent in and of itself; but, we need to look beyond female-friendly toilets and change rooms to a more holistic strategy. There must be a greater representation of women in positions of power inside those organizations.
“Do they have lights in the parking lot so that it is safe for them to leave the training facility at night?” Does everyone, including women and girls, have equal and unrestricted access to those facilities? Do they get access to training and lights throughout peak hours, or do they just get them around 9 o’clock on a Friday night?
Women Onside wants government funds to be allocated only in situations where there is a guarantee of providing fair and equitable access to women and having women in decision-making roles.
Anika Wells, the minister in charge of sports, stated that the Matildas had “changed sport forever” and that the Play Our Way program will “help the next generation of female athletes enjoy safer sporting facilities.”
“All too often, women and girls are changing in men’s restrooms, wearing hand-me-down boys’ uniforms, and playing with men’s equipment on poor fields that boys’ teams wouldn’t train on,” she said. “This is completely unacceptable.”
Additional funding for football and sports played by women has also been promised by states and territories.
South Australia has promised $28 million to female sporting facilities, with $10 million quarantined for football and matched by $10 million from Football SA. The state of Queensland has pledged $10 million from its state budget to improve access for women to community sports clubs. The state of New South Wales has invested $10 million in football “at all levels” as a “legacy” of hosting World Cup games. A football center of excellence has received $42 million in funding from the Victorian government. The ACT government has increased support for Canberra United’s women’s A-League squad, and the Tasmanian government has been providing local clubs with funds to upgrade their facilities for female players.
Additionally, on Saturday, the government will make an announcement that it will modernize the anti-siphoning plan in an effort to prevent big and nationally relevant events from “slipping behind paywalls.”
Under the program, pay television broadcasters are prohibited from purchasing the rights to listed events if free-to-air broadcasters have already done so. A study conducted by the government determined that it was necessary to include internet services, and that the list’s make-up required reevaluation with regard to the inclusion of women’s sports and para-sports.