What the A-Leagues can do to attract more female fans

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The 2021/22 A-League Women season bought along its newest addition; Wellington Phoenix. But, the ALW is set to be bigger and better next season as Western United and Central Coast Mariners take their long-awaited place in the competition.

The listed teams will drastically increase from this season’s 10 to next season’s 12 as the Australian Professional Leagues aims to harmonise the A-Leagues even further with the new club championship to crown the club with the most combined points across the men’s and women’s leagues.

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But these teams will be coming into a problematic women’s league and if the A-Leagues wish to attract more female fans, it will need to address and resolve the underlying strains which remain rampant in the women’s game.

From the beginning of its development, the lack of funding has and continues to be an issue in the ALW. We have seen players forced to withdrawal from the league which fails to provide women the opportunity to make a living as a professional footballer in Australia.

From the early departure of Georgia Boric, to the working reality of this season’s Julie Dolan Medal winner Fiona Worts, the fact is, these women are in a constant battle between pursuing an underpaid career in the ALW or sacrificing the game for a full-time career which provides financial stability.

The push to allow ALW players a full-time professional salary like their male counterparts would potentially require millions from each club, but it is a long sought after investment back into the game.

Next would be to implement full home-and-away fixtures on an extended season. The ALW has been subject to a mere 14 games followed by finals which has only been tied to negative connotations as fans constantly plea for the extension.

Due to its short nature, most games were played during sweltering summer afternoons. Seasonal scheduling should be taken into consideration which has the potential to draw more crowds. The female presence that aligns with the ALW fanbase should hit the target to increase more female fans and fans in general.

 

To attract more female fans, there needs to be an end to gatekeeping – something which occurs more so in the men’s football community as opposed to the women’s game. Ridiculing casual fans along with the portrayed, tarnished, reputation of football fans will likely send female fans in the opposite direction whereby a community of football elitists would prove more intimidating than the game itself.

The promotion of the A-Leagues coverage through its broadcasters and increased advertisement in the mainstream media could see more female fans take an interest in the league, the more representation from clubs which females can relate to or feel represented by the better.

This leads into accepting the standard of having women in ‘male dominated’ roles – whether it be a woman coaching in the ALM, more female referees in the ALM and women in the media anywhere from the commentary box to a press conference; all of which are lacking. Casey Reibelt proving testament to this after she became only the second female to ever referee an ALM game.

The importance of resolving these issues would overall encourage female fans to be more drawn towards the A-Leagues. An example of the NBA, which has a strong female fan base and prominent display of women in media roles. Seven women were listed a part of this season’s coaching staff and, according to Statista, women make up one third of the NBA’s audience.

As the FIFA Women’s World Cup prepares to arrive in Australia, it would be smart to utilise the momentum and direct the Matildas’ fanbase to the A-Leagues to encourage and promote more female fans to the mens game as much as the womens. It could also serve as a reminder of the treasured national talent which emerged through the A-League Women itself.

Feature Image credit: Speed Media 

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Ash Ramos
Journalism student at Curtin University covering Perth Glory for the 2021/22 A-leagues season. Siuuu

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