The 2020-21 Westfield W-League has ended with a hugely entertaining championship Grand Final won by Melbourne Victory in the dying minutes of extra time by an olympico from Kyra Cooney-Cross. Like a script for a movie. Only real!
Despite Covid-19 disruptions in Australia and internationally, the wins for the W-League are notable:
young players coming through
a new regular season attendance record
a high proportion of entertaining games with plenty of goals
ABC continuing its free-to-air broadcast coverage
a surge in non-mainstream media coverage though web stories, podcasts
And the biggest disappointment? Fox Sports coverage! Despite $40 million of public money the Fox care-factor has been low, leading to technical glitches and under-resourced coverage. Even unto the grand final. The quality of W-League coverage needs to be a key factor in the arrangements between the Australian Professional Leagues (who now run the A-League and W-League) and the new broadcasters/streamers CBS /Paramount +.
The other challenges for the W-League are twofold:
1) how to expand and manage the season (full home and away, season timing and length, new teams, best fit with other domestic and international competitions)
2) how to engage with fans and potential fans (venue selection, game day experience, leveraging the football family, encouraging active fan support, positioning against other sports).
These issues are tricky. With fan engagement we are far from the gold standard (Portland Thorns we think) and probably taking one step forward and two steps back in the last couple of years. In a sports market as competitive as Australia you've got to get it all right to stay in the game. That's if you really believe that women's football can and should be a leading sports product here.
We won't try to solve all these problems here but we are interested in hearing from the women's football community. Stay tuned for opportunities for you to have your say.