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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Loved the World Cup? Here's why you should get behind the A-League Women

The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup was the biggest yet, captivating Australia's attention for a month. As the dust settles and the country's domestic competition approaches its restart, Front Page Football looks at why fans who enjoyed the global spectacle should support the A-League Women in 2023/24.

Sydney FC enter the 2023/24 A-League Women's season as champions. (Sydney FC Twitter)


It is where Matildas are born


It's no secret that every Matildas World Cup squad member developed their game in the A-League Women. Many fans who only started following the team a few months ago might be surprised to learn there was a time when players like Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Hayley Raso, Ellie Carpenter, and others all played in Australia's premier domestic league, at the same time, and only a few years ago.


Since then, these Matildas have moved on to represent some of the world's biggest clubs. But don't be fooled about the quality of the league. A-League Women's clubs nurture the next generation of Matildas, who captivate audiences as they begin their careers.


Players like Holly McNamara (20), Daniela Galic (17), Emilia Murray (18), Indiana Dos Santos (15), and many others are breaking through at their respective clubs, thriving in Australia's professional women's competition as they do so. If you enjoyed the World Cup, supporting your local A-League Women's side is well worth it.

It is affordable for everyone


One aspect of the Women’s World Cup that pleasantly surprised the Australian public was the affordability of tickets, ensuring that everyone, regardless of demographic or financial situation, could attend matches. While most clubs offer access to their A-League Women's home games through a full-season membership for the men's team, fans can sign up for an A-League Women's membership at incredible value. For example, Sydney FC, one of the premier teams in the competition and the current champions, offers a full-season, 11-game membership for only $120 for adults, $95 for concessions, $60 for children, and $300 for a family (two adults and two juniors).


The APL, thanks to the support of its sponsors, Liberty, has also maintained the Liberty A-League Pass for 2023/24. This pass allows parents and guardians to sign up any child under 16 to enjoy any A-League Women's game at any stadium in Australia for free. This initiative aims to alleviate families' financial concerns while creating opportunities for the next generation of footballers to draw inspiration from their idols.


The Liberty Pass doesn't extend to parents, but when you compare the average adult A-League Women's ticket prices to those of other sporting codes and consider the significant savings for children, a family day at the football becomes an easy choice. Anyone who spends money on tickets can take solace in the fact that their support is crucial for the growth of a league that, only a few years ago, couldn't provide the players it showcased with adequate compensation to make a living.


It is one step away from the big time


In men's football, the signings of Australian players by European clubs from the A-League Men are often met with celebration. Recently, popular destinations have included Scotland and Belgium, which, in Australia, are widely regarded as potential stepping stones to bigger and better things.


In recent years, Australia's top female players have also secured moves after showcasing their talent in the A-League Women. But to much bigger destinations. Thanks to their outstanding performances, players like Lydia Williams, Steph Catley, and Caitlin Foord transitioned from Melbourne City and Sydney FC to Arsenal. After her incredibly successful stint in Perth, Sam Kerr was signed by London rivals Chelsea. Ellie Carpenter and Clare Hunt went from representing Melbourne City and the Western Sydney Wanderers to joining French giants Lyon and PSG.


Top clubs in women’s football are watching Australia's league. They are finding worthwhile investments in it, a factor which will only become more prevalent following the Matildas' success at the World Cup. Given some of world football’s biggest clubs appreciate the league enough to view it as one where they can draw players from, Australians - football fans or otherwise - should be able to show the A-League Women the same respect with their attention, attendance, and financial support.

The connection between players and fans


One thing notably absent from the World Cup was the consistent connection between fans and players. FIFA regulations dictate teams must fulfil their media duties on the field before being swiftly ushered down the tunnel, passing through the media mixed zone en route to their locker rooms. Many Matildas fans were taken aback by the absence of their favourite players' customary lap of appreciation. This tradition usually extends for over an hour after a standard Matildas game.


This tradition involves all the players, with superstar Sam Kerr often the last one left on the pitch, showing her appreciation to fans. This unity and connection between players and fans can be attributed to their roots in the A-League Women. The smaller crowds and intimate venues in the A-League Women allow fans and players to interact and express their appreciation for one another before and after games.


Fans who have attended A-League Women's games for years can proudly recount conversations and share pictures they've taken with players who now represent some of the biggest clubs in the world. This luxury isn't always afforded to fans in international football or other Australian sports, and it offers a priceless experience for young fans that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
 

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Making a better future a reality


The state of women's football today is significantly better than it was a decade ago. Former Adelaide United forward Racheal Quigley highlighted this fact when she spoke to media last year about her struggle to make a living playing football. She began her A-League Women's career playing for free, a common experience for most players in the competition's early days.


"When I was 17, it was when the first A-League Women's opportunity with Adelaide United had come up, and before that, there wasn’t even a vision. Now, girls can look up to these players and see a pathway. I think it is so important we start putting money into the girls’ development from a young age; we can create more Sam Kerrs, we can create more Ellie Carpenters. But without the funding, it does become really hard," Quigley shared.


“I ended up retiring from the A-League Women's at 26 because I thought I was too old but also because there wasn’t much money, and I had to try and outsource and find money elsewhere. If there was a little bit of money in that, then my career could have been even longer.”


Fortunately, the league has made significant progress since those early days. But there are still situations that fall short of ideal. Take, for instance, Sydney FC’s Fiona Worts, who had to work at McDonald's to supplement her football salary during the same season she won the Julie Dolan Medal at Adelaide United. While the World Cup provided a fantastic spectacle where the best female footballers worldwide showcased their ability on the grandest stage, this reality is far from the norm at a club level for many of the same players.


Boosting interest in the Australian league will undoubtedly put the competition in a better financial position and ultimately benefit the players in the long run. When Australia's female footballers thrive, its national teams also stand to gain. It all begins with the fans, and the interest in England following the Women’s Euros last year serves as an excellent example of how engagement in women's football can explode.

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