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Watching the Women

by Ashley Morrison on Feb 02, 2012

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News that the Womens' Professional Soccer League in American has been shut down this week left many of Australia’s Matildas without teams to play for now that the W-League has reached its conclusion.

This is obviously very disappointing for those concerned and will not be good news for the national team, which needs these girls playing as much football at the highest level as possible.

With all due respect to the W-League it also needs many of these girls exposed to full time professional football, so that they can see how much work the girls in other countries put in to be at the peak of their game; The sacrifices that have to be made if you want to fulfill your potential.

This is no doubt devastating for the Americans, but it should also sound alarm bells in Australia.

When the Hyundai A League was launched we were advised that the biggest influences in the model that would determine the set up of the league were the United States and Japan. Albeit the men’s competitions in these countries, but their female leagues were set up along similar lines.

The WPS had a continual struggle with their gates but had no trouble attracting sponsors. The straw that appears to have broken the camel’s back was when the former Washington Freedom franchise was sold to a Florida based investor, who refused to name the team, that investor, Dan Borislaw is blamed by the league for its ultimate demise.

The official statement put out by the WPS from Sky Blue FC owner Thomas Hofstetter said "We are proud of what the League has accomplished in the first three seasons, but we do recognize the necessity to resolve our existing legal and operational issues so that we can continue to support and grow WPS the right way, This was a very difficult decision, but one we as owners feel is the best business decision for the League at this time."

The issue that this raises is does the Hyundai A League run the risk of putting itself in a similar position should a private owner have a dispute with the governing body?

Private ownership of clubs always comes with risk, should an owner wish to pull out, if another cannot be found a club and its fans could face extinction.

Looking at the WPS one legal dispute has put the livelihoods of not only many female footballers in jeopardy, but also the careers of coaches and administrators as well as the league competition itself.

Hopefully the FFA will be following proceedings very closely in America and taking action to ensure that the Hyundai A League is never exposed to such possibilities. Those who have supported the game through thick and thin despite their continued optimism would have to wonder whether the game could survive such a move if heaven forbid it was ever to eventuate here.

As a safeguard and as the A League comes of age maybe it is time to start looking at giving the fans the chance to invest in their clubs, to give them some community ownership. After all in many European countries it is the community and the fans who have in fact kept clubs facing extinction alive, and some have flourished as a result.