What a year it’s been for women’s football! Building on the strong foundations set in the past, participation has continued to rise, investment has steadily grown and from the elite level down to the grassroots, interest in the game has never been stronger.
The 2022 International Women’s Day (IWD) theme #BreakTheBias resonates with us all in the Victorian football community. #BreakingTheBias has been a goal we have continually strived for and if we are to achieve our ambitious target of 50/50 gender balance by 2027, something we must continue to fight for.
Although there is still work to be done, IWD provides us all with a fantastic opportunity to reflect on our community’s recent accomplishments and celebrate the progress made throughout all levels of the game.
Home Of The Matildas
At the pinnacle of women’s football, construction on the Home of the Matildas is underway, delivering a world-class facility at La Trobe University to unlock the full potential of our national teams and pathway programs.
Significantly, the Home of the Matildas will not exclusively be reserved for the elite level. 80% of the project budget is dedicated to facilities that are accessible for the general football community in a bid to empower our community.
This includes over 3,500 hours per year of pitch access for Clubs and Community groups with additional access to high performance facilities in addition to this. Our football family will have access to meeting rooms, function spaces, change rooms, the Futsal facility and an expansive gym including all wet/recovery areas.
Yesterday also marked a landmark day for women’s football in Australia – 500 days to go until the Women’s World Cup 2023 Australia and New ZealandTM. The event is set to catapult women’s football into the spotlight and will undoubtedly inspire the next generation of young women and girls to get involved in our great game.
NPLW & Victorian Women’s Football
It’s a new era for women’s football in Victoria. The National Premier League Women’s Victoria has officially transitioned from an amateur to professional competition in 2022. The shift was inevitable given the growing stature of women’s football and players will now enjoy significant financial and security entitlements.
“The NPLW was ready to evolve. We’re thrilled to say that professional female footballers will now share the same opportunities that exist in the men’s space,” said Ezel Hikmet, NPL General Manager at Football Victoria.
“Conditions for players and Clubs are improving dramatically under this new model and importantly, the entire quality of the league will benefit."
Victorian football’s leading women’s knockout competition, the Nike F.C. Cup is also set to be elevated in 2022, with the prize money increasing by more than 60%, to match the men’s Dockerty Cup for the first time.
At the community level, Female Football February kicked off last month. The initiative was a great success with Club’s in metro and regional Victoria hosting events dedicated to celebrating women’s football. Events were hosted in all shapes and sizes to offer opportunities, with Club’s opening their doors for new players, coaches, referees and administrators to get involved in pressure-free, engaging environments.
This year has also seen the launch of new and exciting formats of our game. Women’s Football Sevens kicked off last month, providing an opportunity for women and girls across Victoria to play in a social, fast paced setting. The 7-a-side game exceeded expectations with Knox, Fawkner and Geelong hosting successful tournaments packed with players of all experience levels and backgrounds.
Looking ahead, Football Victoria’s school program is about to kick off in the coming months. The GO Girls program will move into Primary Schools and Special Schools for the first time. The program will provide an opportunity for young girl’s, including those with impairment, to break down barriers and fall in love with our game in a safe setting.
The program strongly ties into Football Victoria’s FootbALLways strategy, ensuring Victorians of all abilities and backgrounds have an equal opportunity to live and love football.
“Connectivity between people and communities that provides physical and mental health and wellbeing outcomes, and a vital social integration has been severely lacking over the past two years. Our ability to counter the negative effects of the pandemic and turn it into a positive by creating a new football ecosystem will have a lasting effect on our game.," Said Karen Pearce, Executive Manager Growth and Inclusion at Football Victoria.
"We are a diverse state and Football Victoria has a bold ambition. Globally we are seeing a greater shift towards the empowerment of women across all levels of society. Our responsibility is to provide access for women and girls to overcome the social and cultural challenges enabling them to instead develop and thrive."
"Victoria’s emergence from the pandemic is reliant on the critical role we all play in opening our doors to new people and communities and pivoting slightly away from the way we did things yesterday. Equity should be a given. Our role is to adapt and embrace change, forging new ways of engagement that will lift the spirits of our state and get people active again."
FV continue to strive towards gender equity
Our community has united to drive women’s football forward and internally, Football Victoria are furthering our education and designing strategies to influence participation at all levels of the game.
In 2021, our entire organisation participated in the Towards 50:50 Change Makers project, to better understanding key issues in female football and co-design tangible strategies dedicated to achieving gender equity.
All women in the organisation are also undertaking a leadership program with Chair of Football Australia’s Women’s Football Council, Leigh Russell. The program will better equip our staff with leadership skills and facilitate the development of action focused to develop new ways to think, lead and drive beyond the disruption faced over the past few years and build football back better than ever before.
On International Women’s Day, we want to take a moment to applaud the enormous contribution of all women and girls in football. Our game is richer for your contribution in all ways, as players, referees, committee members, volunteers, coaches and fans. Thank you for all that you do for our beautiful game.