Why we need a longer W-League season

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Ask any W-League player or coach and they will tell you that the season is too short.

The current 12-game fixture does not provide enough time for teams to find themselves and reach their full potential.

This season, many teams have only found their best form in the past few weeks, and yet the regular season is about to wrap up.

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A longer season of say 18 or 20 games would allow teams more time to establish an identity.

Many squads are not finalised until the days before the season starts and require a few matches to gel together.

A longer season would ensure teams that start slowly still have life in the competition, with ample matches left to climb the ladder.

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We see this all the time in the A-League. This season alone, Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix both got off to horrendous starts to the season – Perth won only one of their first seven games, and Wellington had their worst ever start to the season netting just one point in their first five matches.

Yet both teams have been able to recover and entrench themselves in the top six.

A slow start did not mean their seasons were over.

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Likewise, playing more games will improve the chemistry of teams and the overall quality of the league.

In the last few weeks the W-League has seen a higher level of play with more goals being scored as the top teams have found their feet.

A longer season also offers more opportunities for players to develop and improve their skill level by playing in competitive matches.

From an FFA perspective, this would enhance the overall quality of home-grown players, strengthening the national team.

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Furthermore, the W-League attracts a lot of international players many of whom may be arriving in Australia for the first time.

A longer season would give them more time to adjust to our conditions and lifestyle, so that they can perform at their best.

An example of this is Melbourne City recruit Claire Emslie. The Scot was hyped-up before the season started as a dominant force in the front third that would hit the scoreboard for City.

However in her first seven matches she failed to score and looked out of place in the team.

Only in the last month has she found consistent form and played to her full potential, scoring four goals in her last four starts.

Unfortunately Emslie only has one more regular season game left to showcase her abilities.

If the season were 18 matches, she would have seven more opportunities to play at her peak.

A longer season would also attract even more high-quality international players to travel to Australia and play in the W-League, once again improving the overall quality of the league.

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Finally a longer season would allow the players to be paid more, which everyone in the industry should be in favour of.

This would create a more sustainable pathway for the next generation of players as well.

A longer season means more matches can be shown on television and played as double-headers with the A-League, further growing the profile of the league. The prospect of a higher quality product should also appeal to broadcasters.

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How a longer season could work:

Currently teams play 12 across over a 14 round season with two byes.

If the league expanded to an even number of teams and abolished the bye, it would allow every team to play across all 14 rounds.

Teams could then play a couple of midweek matches, in particular around Christmas and New Year’s as a way to further boost the length of the season.

Thursday night football has been a raging success this season. The two Melbourne City games I attended had a magnificent atmosphere community vibe, which suggests that around two midweek rounds could work, if done at the right time of year.

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Furthermore, if we tacked on one extra round to both the start and end of the season, we could easily create a season of at least 18 matches.

These changes are all easily achieved and would increase the overall length of the season by 50%.

It would give players extra time to settle into the season before it is halfway finished.

Eighteen games would also be closer to the length of leagues in the United States (NWSL) and United Kingdom that have 24 and 20 game seasons respectively.

This suggested structure would also ensure the W-League does not overlap with the NWSL, where many of our top players also play. It would also not overlap with the international breaks currently in the schedule.

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The benefits of a longer W-League season are obvious.

It would improve the level of play, provide more opportunities to develop local talent and attract more international stars and provide greater reward to the players, coaches, administrators and supporters who invest in and love women’s football.

Feature image credit: Jaime Castaneda Sydney FC

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Michael Patane
Student at Monash University and lover of all things football covering Melbourne City in 2019/20.