The growth of women’s football in Australia shows that the game must continue to focus on supporting female footballers.
Sepp Blatter’s famous declaration that “the future of football is feminine” may have come during the International Women’s Day festivities, but it was no empty statement.
Head of the W-League Damien De Bohun stands alongside Blatter in his predictions, but says there needs to be greater engagement from the public for the women’s game to continue moving forward in Australia.
“Football needs to engage women in every facet of the game,” says De Bohun. “In terms of where the growth opportunities are, we want to make sure that football is a sport that engages females to attend matches and watch matches on broadcast. Football is a sport for women as well as men.”
De Bohun believes the future of the W-League looks solid, and for the competition to continue growing over the next five years there must be a focus on using mediums like social media to inform and entertain the fans.
“I think everyone involved with the Westfield W-League would say that this year it’s taken a step up, and the broadcast, not just from the ABC but through a lot of the social media channels, is getting a lot more exposure. From our perspective it’s heading in the right direction, and over the next five years we see ourselves building on that.”
While Australia’s premier women’s competition has been steadily expanding in recent years thanks to extended seasons and additional teams, De Bohun says there must be a continual focus on our country’s youth through state and domestic competitions.
“The member federations of the FFA, so the states and territories, are heavily involved in the Westfield W-League sides. That means in practice that the clubs are pinnacle teams for development programs. What’s great about that is that young girls, in setting out to play football from a young age, have a very clear pathway and can aspire to play in the W-League and go on to the Matildas.”
The future of Australia’s up-and-coming football stars seems to be in safe hands thanks to the W-League’s focus on youth, but there is also a need to promote the game on a broader scale. For De Bohun, this means increasing the number of fans watching from the stands and on television, and taking the necessary steps to marry the W-League and A-League more closely.
“We need to make sure that we continue to grow the visibility of the Westfield W-League. I actually believe in a practical sense there are greater opportunities to integrate the W-League with the A-League. The 7-5 thriller between Perth Glory and Sydney FC in the W-League was the first game of a double-header before the Sydney derby, so all the ladies in action got to play in front of several thousand fans.”
With continual growth on the agenda, as well as a commitment to integrate the men’s and women’s games more closely, it’s not hard to see that the future of football in Australia is in safe hands.