Sam Kerr of Australia celebrates after scoring a goal during the women's International friendly soccer match between Australia and Chile in Sydney, Australia, 09 November 2019.

The Next Step: PFA report seeks to protect growth of Australian women’s football

24 November 2020
Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) recently released ‘Professional Women’s Football: The Next Step’ to offer solutions to the challenges that Australian women’s football is facing. The PFA is seeking to increase the number of players who turn professional, encourage clubs take a long term view on investment and keep competitive balance in the W-League. One of the biggest goals is to attract and retain the best global talent amid the growth of European women’s football clubs. Similarly to FIFPRO’s Raising Our Game report, The Next Step provides a vision for women’s professional football.

PFA Co-Chief Executive Kathryn Gill spoke to FIFPRO about the report.

(Cover image: Sam Kerr, who played for Perth Glory in the W-League, before moving to clubs in the U.S. and U.K.) 

Why did you decide to produce The Next Step?

We are trying to encourage greater professionalism and improved Collective Bargaining Agreements in Australian football. The document as a whole serves as a strategic lens of the PFA’s work while driving for plans of action at the federation and club level.

FIFPRO’s Raising Our Game report advocates that innovative and attractive competition designs, general working standards and CBA’s would greatly benefit women’s football. That is exactly what The Next Step is in a domestic context: information to build a strategy and secure the continuing development of women’s football in Australia.

What we have done is conduct the necessary research and publish our recommendations to spark the right discussions with the Football Federation Australia (FFA) and clubs. The Next Step is a brainstorming document meant to act as a catalyst for action and change in the W-League, as well as strengthen the pathway to our national team, the Matildas.

“We want to make the W-League the #1 professional women’s league in the world”

— by Kathryn Gill, PFA co-Chief Executive

What are the PFA’s goals for the W-league?

Kathryn Gill – With the growth of the W-League, an organic connection has developed with the NWSL. The seasons have aligned allowing players to compete year-round in both the USA and Australia. We want to make the W-League the number one professional women’s league in the world.  In order to compete with European clubs, we need to expand our financial capacity and create a secure professional environment with strong collective agreements to protect the players. That is our main goal. We also want to make the W-League a launching pad for players to develop with the possibility of lucrative European club deals.

What is the status of the Matildas in Australia?

Kathryn Gill – There has been a lot of research that proves that the Matildas have recently skyrocketed in popularity. They recently polled as the Australian national team with the strongest emotional connection to the Australian population. From the moment of our first CBA in 2015, the PFA has been pushing for professionalism and investment in women’s sports. The FFA has reacted positively and players that may have felt neglected before have experienced a turnaround. This gives us hope going forward.

EMILY GIELNIK of Melbourne Victory kicks for goal and scores in round 3 of the W-League competition between Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory during the 2018 season at AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia. The Westfield W-League is Australia's national women's semi-professional soccer league.
Emily Gielnik of Melbourne Victory kicks for goal and scores in round 3 of the W-League competition between Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory during the 2018 season at AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia.

How has the coronavirus affected Australian football?

Kathryn Gill – Unfortunately, due to the pandemic we have seen a reduction in revenue and sponsors in both the men’s and women’s leagues. The main revenues for the professional leagues come from broadcasting and naming rights partners.

Up until now, the FFA has managed investments in the league. Next season, however, the clubs will have the responsibility of coming together and finding new centralized revenues for both the men’s and women’s league. This is a process that has been accelerated due to Covid-19 as the League’s prominent source of revenue, the broadcast deal, ends in June 2021, having been reduced by two years.

The pandemic has also had a significant impact on our players, with a large number reporting greater levels of uncertainty about their careers and futures as professional footballers, as well as reporting higher levels of anxiety.

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