It looks like women’s soccer is back to being an afterthought. While players and coaching staff will be striving as hard as ever to win the W-League title this season (which kicks off on Saturday for those of you that weren’t aware), the off-field support for the competition is struggling big time.
After everyone got the chance to feel good about themselves during the Matildas quarter-final run at the World Cup, the gloss has well and truly worn off for the women’s game.
This week a W-League insider said to me there had been no real flow-on effect from the World Cup and while small steps were being taken, the game was as hard as ever to be involved with.
Melbourne Victory’s W-League team not having a major sponsor for the upcoming season would be a testament to that. After breaking through for a first finals campaign in February, developing five players for the Young Matildas and carving out a respectable niche as a minor women’s sport (that got 900 to a stand-alone game last year) the team is going backwards off the park.
The rumblings have certainly started among the press pack and Twitterati. Could FFA and government funding have been better spent elsewhere? Is the feel-good factor of propping up a women’s league really worth the dollars bled? Given the Matildas didn’t qualify for the Olympics, nor the Young Matildas for the Under-20 World Cup, is there really any point in staging a league given training camps would be a more cost effective means of preparing teams for whatever internationals that may be on the cards?
And why fly teams around the country for 12 weeks when the bulk of players that make up the senior Matildas side are now concentrated almost exclusively in NSW, Queensland and the ACT anyway?
Missing the Olympics for the second straight time is a big blow, and had qualifiers been even a few months earlier, there might have been every incentive to cancel the W-League and not bring it back.
But the league is here, the participants believe there is merit too it, and as long as the money is there to fly teams around the country, it’s going ahead.
Although one wonders, when you look at the schedule, exactly how much care or thought has been put into the games we’re getting.
This weekend Melbourne Victory kicks off its season against Perth Glory at the Veneto Club in Bulleen, at 5pm. If that strikes you as a little strange it should, given the Victory-Heart A-League derby starts at Etihad Stadium at 7.45pm.
That kick-off time isn’t being moved either. To quote a colleague of mine, “they’ll be lucky if the linesmen show up.”
It seems women’s football exists, but right now it’s going to exist in a vacuum.
A high-ranking television executive once said to me that the Olympics “without the media is little more than people having a run and a swim.”
The FFA had to negotiate for more than while to get a weekly game back on ABC TV (avoiding the fate of the sport that follows it, Lawn Bowls, which has gone by the wayside this summer), while a quick Google News search will show you that reportage on the competition is near to non-existent.
I, like the players and coaches, see merit to the league. I perhaps over-indulge in the feel-good factor that comes in giving women’s sport a leg up.
It’d be nice if by the end of the season to feel like reporting on the W-League was primarily because of the news value in the story, rather than helping out a battler.