Women’s football gets popularity boost

JACK HOLT

Interest in women’s football is on the rise, with Australia bidding for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and 570,000 watching Australia’s first Women’s World Cup match in France on SBS in June.

Queensland Lions FC

This year’s Women’s World Cup became the first to draw more than one million viewers worldwide over the course of the tournament. Photo: Courtesy Queensland Lions FC

 

Football has become Australia’s most popular participation-based sport, with the National Participation Report recording that 1.85 million people play the sport, 21 per cent of which are female.

The Football Federation Australia is aiming for the sport to be the most popular sport for women by 2027, with the FFA’s Gender Equality Action Plan stating that they are aiming for equal numbers of males and females playing the sport.

In the senior women’s game, which caters to players 21 and over, there are currently 3544 women playing for outdoor-based teams, making up 26 per cent of adult outdoor participation.

Queensland Lions Football Club, known as Lions FC, reintroduced a senior women’s team in 2018 that competed in Queensland football’s highest women’s tier, the National Premier League Women’s (NPLW).

The club also has an under 18s, an under 15s and an under 13s team in the NPLW.

Queensland Lion’s senior women’s team have won both the NPLW and the Grand Final in their second season this year.

Queensland Lions general manager Rob Scanlon said the club had noticed an increase in popularity for women’s football at all ages.

“The demand for women’s specific programs has definitely driven interest across the board and is a great addition to the club since we brought it (the team) back a year and a half ago,” Mr Scanlon said.

He said the demand was so great this year that the club reportedly turned away “250 to 300 kids” due to space and facilities.

“There’s a general increase across the board, not only in participation, but in support [including spectators],” Mr Scanlon said.

Queensland Lions FC 2019 grand final

Queensland Lions FC women’s team won the National Premier League Women’s Queensland Grand Final, beating Moreton Bay United 3-1. Photo: Queensland Lions FC

 

According to the Football Federation Australia’s 2018 National Participation Report, Queensland has 17,514 women and girls participating in football, with 13,410 playing for outdoor teams, including futsal and social indoor teams.

Bardon Latrobe Football Club hosts a number of these outdoor teams, for different age and gender groups.

Bardon Latrobe are the first documented club in Brisbane to have a women’s football club, forming the Latrobe Ladies Football Club in 1921.

Bardon Latrobe Football Club chairman Phil Cowlishaw said the club had an increase in both male and female players in recent years.

“We’ve probably got about 15 per cent of the players are female and that’s probably been the same case over the past 10 years,” Mr Cowlishaw said.

“While our overall percentage of girls and women hasn’t gone up, the standard and the quality of the football they play certainly has,” he said.

“I think the girls are much more enthusiastic,” Mr Cowlishaw said.

“We watch some of the games at the club and now that women’s game are being shown [on television], I’m sure players numbers will go up.”

Latrobe Ladies Football Club 1921

Bardon Latrobe FC are the first documented club in Brisbane to have a women’s football club, forming the Latrobe Ladies Football Club in 1921. Photo: Bardon Latrobe FC

 

Not only have the numbers of football players been increasing, but spectator attendance for women’s football games has also been increasing. This is particularly the case for games in the W-League, Australia’s professional women’s league.

According the FFA, attendance at W-League games over the past two years has risen to an average of more than 2000 fans attending each game.

This year’s W-League Grand Final was the highest attended final in the W-League’s history, with 6127 in the stands to watch Sydney FC beat Perth Glory 4-2 at the Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

A spokesperson for Football Federation Australia said W-League was not only an opportunity for the viewing of professional women’s football.

“The success of the Westfield W-League and the Westfield Matildas has contributed to the popularity of football in Australia, especially amongst young girls and women,” the spokesperson said.

“The Westfield Matildas are one of the most popular national sporting teams in Australia, as a result the interest in women’s football and football in general has grown exponentially in the past few years.”

W-League attendance is increasing

Attendance at W-League games has continued to increase since the 2011/12 season. Photo: Courtesy Queensland Lions FC

 

The FFA spokesperson said the league had also gained a boost thanks to the broadcasting of all the 2018-19 season games online, and said the broadcasting of games would continue into the 2019-20 season.

The increased number of options for girls’ and women’s football at a grassroots level has also helped boost the popularity of women’s football.

Participation in social leagues in Queensland by females accounts for 29 per cent of the memberships in social leagues.

The Canungra Owls Soccer Club, located in Canungra in South-East Queensland, hosts one of those teams.

Katie Luck, who plays for Canungra Owls Soccer Club, said her experience with football had been a positive one that had helped her feel integrated into her local community.

“It’s more to do with the community, when I moved out there, I didn’t know anyone,” Ms Luck said.

“They were looking for players and I saw a post on Facebook, and I thought ‘why not, what have I got to lose?’,” she said.

“So, I thought I’d go down and give it a try.”

Luck admitted she had no other interest in the sport and wouldn’t watch it if it was on television, and instead said she was only interested “purely for the community” aspect.

Despite that, Ms Luck said she “definitely would” reapply to be part of the team next season.

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