The recent months have been devastating for the W-League in terms of talent emigration, specifically to European northern-hemisphere winter-leagues.
More than ever it is important to schedule the W-League in the northern-hemisphere summer-leagues' off-seasons.
Raso, Foord, Checker, McCormick, Catley, Williams, Carpenter, Arnold, Dowie, Riley. A long list of names synonymous with the W-League. Also a long list of names that will not be featuring in the W-League anytime soon.
The past couple of months have seen a mass migration of top W-League players to European clubs who play in the northern-hemisphere winter-season.
The leagues that have recruited them, the English FAWSL, the Spanish Primera Iberdrola, the French Division 1, the Danish Elitedivisione and the Italian Serie A play nearly year-round. This makes a possible return of the departed players back to the W-League during their off-season, even with a winter shift, impossible.
Therefore, for the W-League not to devolve into a development league, more than ever it is imperative to ensure that it remains a league that can attract foreign talent.
For this to happen it must be scheduled in the northern-hemisphere summer-leagues' off-seasons, which is long enough to accommodate the current W-League season, and allow clubs the capacity to recruit from abroad.
Overseas Talent's Impact
Since the American NWSL's inception, it and the W-League have had a revolving door of players participating in both leagues during their respective off-seasons. For the Nordic leagues, the Icelandic Urvalsdeld Kvenna, the Norwegian Toppserien, and the Swedish Damallsvenskan, the same situation has also occurred to a lesser extent.
Last season alone, 2019-20, a total of twenty-five non-Australian players joined W-League clubs during their NWSL off-season. A further ten Australian players had played in the NWSL during the summer of 2019.
Six foreign players also came from Nordic leagues. This 2020 summer saw nine Matildas and Young Matildas go to Iceland, Norway, and Sweden to play during the W-League offseason.
The impact of this foreign talent, as well as Australian talent who play abroad during their off-season, should not be understated. Just this past W-League season half the Players of the Month, half the Golden Boot winners, the Julie Dolan medal winner, the Young Footballer of the Year, and both Goalkeepers of the Year were able to play in the W-League due to the football seasons' alignment.
The foreign talent contribution to the W-League not only improves the quality of play within the league, but also the quality of opposition for Australian-based players. Names like Denise O'Sullivan, Kristen Hamilton, and Camilla also increased the commercial appeal of Australia's top women's competition.
Moreover, the ability of Aussie-based players to seek overseas off-season opportunities in the NWSL and Nordic Leagues, opportunities that allow them to come home to the W-League for part of the year, have not only been important for the continued prosperity and attractiveness of the W-League, but also for Australian football development.
From both a competitive and commercial perspective, the continued facilitation of participation of both foreign and Australian talent in the W-League is vital.