The 2015 World Cup was a watershed moment for Women’s Football in Australia.

Over two million people around the country tuned in to watch the Matildas become the first senior Australian national team to win a World Cup knockout game having finished second in a group containing the CONCACAF champions and eventual tournament winners, the USA, European Championship semi-finalists Sweden and African champions Nigeria.

Image credit: Sydney Gilleland

The eventual Round of 16 victory came against CONMEBOL champions Brazil before an eventual late quarter final exit against Asian Champions and eventual runners-up Japan.

A few months on and the attention turns to the next edition of the Westfield W-League as it played no small part in our success in Canada with the likes of Steph Catley, Elise Kellond-Knight, Katrina Gorry, Caitlin Foord, Kyah Simon, Sam Kerr and numerous others in the squad all getting their starts in the early editions of the competition.

So far it has grown consistently and organically, producing local players that have gone on to prove their quality in the some of the world’s best leagues, as exemplified by the stints in the United States of the aforementioned Catley, Kerr, Foord and Simon.

It has also brought quality imports to our shores with the likes of U.S. internationals Lori Lindsey and Meghan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign stars Keelin Winters and Jess Fishlock, England World Cup goal scorer Jodie Taylor and not least, Ballon d’Or winner Nadine Angerer all gracing our pitches.

This season however, the league to which the games development in this country is so critically tied will face its biggest challenge yet: the entrance of Melbourne City.

Without wanting to sound like a street corner vagabond preaching the end of days, this could be a crushing blow for the game if the right parties don’t respond. Already the scavenging has begun.

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Matildas duo Lisa De Vanna and Laura Alleway have joined from Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar and I am comfortable in expecting that they will not be the only big signings the Bundoora based club will make before October’s kick-off.

The lure of state of the art, club-owned facilities and full time contracts will be understandably attractive to many with most W-League players accustomed to shared grounds run by local state federations and part time contracts which often pale in comparison to even some National Premier League men’s footballers.

This investment is of little surprise as City Football Groups owner, Sheikh Mansour, could pay the $150,000 W-League salary cap 3.2 million times over with just his own personal wealth and no one could begrudge any footballer for wanting in.

The problem then appears. Currently only Canberra United get anywhere near the salary cap – whilst still falling a fair way short – and there is no indication that big investment will come from those sides run by Hyundai A-League clubs that may have the money to improve their situations.

Brisbane Roar’s recent financial difficulties have been well documented, Adelaide United were reluctantly forced to bail out their W-League side earlier this year after it came dangerously close to folding and Perth Glory’s owner Tony Sage has long been critical of having to pump money into their W-League outfit.

This is not to mention Melbourne Victory and the Newcastle Jets who are still run by Football Federation Victoria and Northern New South Wales Football respectively, with Victory in particular having been scarily quiet so far this off-season.

There is, of course, the great hope that Melbourne City plucking a few star players from each club will encourage A-League bosses to improve their investment however, there is no precedent in Women’s football in Australia to suggest that increased funding will be forthcoming. Even the financially stable Sydney clubs, who both control their W-League sides, are not expected to improve their financial input substantially, if at all.

What we must be extremely wary of is A-League clubs using any considerable imbalance over the next two years as an excuse to withhold funding. The idea that “we can’t match City’s spending, so why bother?” would be disastrous.

Competitiveness on the pitch, in the stands and with sponsorship is absolutely critical and at the moment it feels like the other eight W-League clubs are about to jump out of the gates against a Makybe Diva from early November in 2004.

Will A-League clubs care enough to try and match City? Even if they wanted to, is it financially viable for them? Do the State federation run clubs even have half a chance?

Unfortunately I don’t think so and nor do I think we should have to find out. But we will, and I truly hope the W-League doesn’t suffer for it.

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