2023: THE YEAR OF THE MATILDAS
Why the successful FIFA Women’s World Cup bid could be the spark to reignite the fortunes of Australian soccer
Posted 5 months ago
On June 25, 2020, 22 out of 35 FIFA Council Members voted in favour of granting the rights to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to co-hosts Australia and New Zealand. Looking at past editions of the tournament and its outcome on the soccer landscape of the host nations, there is cause for optimism that there could be revolutionary changes in Australian soccer and why, irrespective of their success at the World Cup, 2023 could be the year that the Matildas are at the forefront of that transformation.
The FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 is a tournament of many firsts. It would be the first edition of the tournament to be held in the southern hemisphere, the first World Cup to be jointly hosted by two confederations (AFC & OFC) and the first time that the Women’s World Cup would feature 32 teams (instead of the standard 24 team format). This means that over the course of one month, billions of viewers across the world would be locked in to witness over 700 players compete for the top prize in women’s soccer, and Australia would be the backdrop for this magnificent spectacle.
For the FFA, winning the bid could not have come at a more opportune moment. Major sponsors such as Hyundai, NAB and Aldi have ended their contracts with the FFA over the past year and there is desperate need for commercial influx into a sport that is pre-burdened with rising operational costs and lack of broadcasters.
The 2023 World Cup in Australia is part of FIFA’s master plan – FIFA 2.0, for redeveloping women’s soccer worldwide. FIFA 2.0 is built around an investment of $1 billion by FIFA with a view to –
1) Doubling the number of female players to 60 million globally by 2026
2) Launching new international and domestic competitions for national teams and clubs
3) Improving women’s governance in the sport by 2022 (at least one-third of FIFA Committee members to be women).
In line with this strategy, the FFA has begun to implement its own policies to ensure the growth of the sport in Australia. The policies are aimed towards the 2023 World Cup and beyond. Highlights of these policies include –
1) Securing Federal Government grants to cover the operational costs of the World Cup
2) 50/50 gender split in the sport by 2027, by introducing over 150,000 new female participants to the sport
3) Soccer programs aimed at specific groups – Soccer Mums (adult women), Kick On Girls (ages 13 – 17), and programs for multicultural and indigenous participants
4) W-League 2.0 – commercial redevelopment and expansion of the existing W-League.
At the heart of these policies is the establishment of a new home for Australian soccer at the Banton Park precinct in Sydney, in time for the 2023 World Cup. Winning the bid for the World Cup has improved FFA’s chances of securing funding for this facility from the NSW government, which would serve as a world-class training base for the Socceroos and the Matildas, coupled with coaching and refereeing centers.
Many women Australian soccer players such as Sam Kerr, Steph Catley and Caitlyn Foord are being courted by major European teams, which goes to show that eyes of the world are slowly being turned towards Australian soccer. An increase in eyeballs consequently generates corporate interest in terms of sponsors and broadcasters towards the A-League, the W-League, and the international games, which is exactly what the FFA could use at this crucial juncture in the future of the sport.
To harness the potential legacy of the 2023 World Cup, the FFA has outlined ‘XI Principles’ to fortify the future of Australian soccer as a whole by bringing together multiple facets of the sport. The salient features of this strategy include –
1) Utilizing existing facilities and natural surroundings to foster participation and to improve products such as futsal and beach soccer
2) Overcoming the cost barrier for participation in soccer and making it more accessible as a social sport to the community as a whole
3) Exploring opportunities for engaging more women, migrant and refugee communities towards participation
4) Stimulating the growth of the Australian soccer economy by restructuring of its governance, administration and investment systems
5) Streamlining player pathways to create a world-class environment for youth development.
While these developments are purely speculative at this point of time, there are a lot of reasons for expecting positive outcomes from hosting the 2023 World Cup. Australia only needs to look at the transformation that soccer in USA has undergone since hosting the 1999 Women’s World Cup. The final of the 1999 World Cup was witnessed by over 91,000 spectators at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, which remains a record for most spectators at a women’s sporting event. Television viewership records reached an all-time high. USWNT players such as Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly secured high profile sponsorship deals. The tournament paved the way for where women’s soccer in USA has reached today.
There is no reason to doubt that the 2023 World Cup bid, joint with FIFA and FFA’s long term objectives, could have a similar impact on soccer in Australia. There is a visible initiative on the part of the FFA to ensure that the legacy of 2023 World Cup does not remain unfulfilled and the entirety of the Australian soccer community is involved in this process. By winning the bid, Australia has ensured that it becomes a focal point in world soccer in the coming years. The time has now come for the FFA and the Australian soccer ecosystem to jointly ensure that their spot in the limelight is not squandered, to ensure that 2023 truly does become the year of the Matildas.
In light of these proposals made by the FFA, sports products will play an important role in bringing the community together and fostering participation in soccer. The current crop of soccer products has made optimal use of existing science and technology-based resources to provide a range of services that drive analytics, performance and engagement in the sport. However, if the strategies outlined in the advent of the 2023 World Cup do come to fruition, current soccer service providers such as Treiner, Hudl, Participa8, VALD and SPT would have to ensure they are in a prime position to harness the influx of resources into soccer in Australia. Emerging science and technology would have to be leveraged to improve the present offering of soccer products. By implementing smarter analytics and enabling artificial intelligence, soccer products would play a major role in optimizing performance and personalizing engagement, thereby ushering in the next stage of evolution for Australian soccer.
Treiner will remain a premium online marketplace dedicated to providing a platform for both coaches and players to come together, united by their love for the sport. Irrespective of skill level, age, gender or ethnicity, Treiner will be at the forefront of engaging communities across Australia to drive participation into soccer by connecting people through its simple user interface and open-for-all amenities. The services provided by Treiner further highlight its dedication towards FFA’s strategy of exploring opportunities for stimulating participation in soccer leading up to 2023 and beyond. For support and further information about Treiner, browse our website and our social media accounts:
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