The W-League needs to be bold if it is to maintain its status as one of the premier women’s competitions in the world, say NPLW stars.
After 12 seasons, a league which has produced so many Matildas, is at the cross roads as European clubs start taking over the women’s game.
Many believe the logical solution is to move the W-League calendar from May to August, just after the AFL/NRL starts and just before the final series of both codes.
Former Galaxy United and Alamein NPLW star Jess Tay, believes winter is a good time for women’s football to take its share of the market.
“It is a winter sport, so it makes sense to play it during winter doesn’t it?” said a pragmatic Tay.
Apart from Super Netball, there are no major women’s sports happening in that time of the year, so it makes sense for women’s football to try and capture fans of women’s sport.
The move would also help the W-League fall in line with the NPLW system, which allows for movement between the leagues of fringe players.
“It is an incentive for NPLW players who perform well during the season to get a chance to be in the W-League,” says Tay. “It is a chance for them to step up.”
The W-League has always played second fiddle to the powerful US National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) which generally runs from April to October each year, which meant the W-League could snuggle neatly in between seasons. This meant our Matildas and the best players from the world could play in Australia too.
However the issue is now the top European competitions headed by the English FA WSL, run from September to May, eating right into the territory that belongs to the W-League.
England has already lured the likes of Chelsea’s Sam Kerr, Everton's Hayley Raso, Bristol City’s Chloe Logarzo and Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord.
England isn’t the only destination with Emily Gielnik at German powerhouse Bayern Munich, Lisa De Vanna at Fiorentina, Alex Chidiac at Atletico Madrid and promising youngster Mary Fowler at Montpellier.
“The W-League will be competing with major foreign competitions in both winter and summer anyway,” says Tay.
“So stuff it, we may as well take the plunge and go to winter and take on the Americans, which is likely to fall behind Europe in the coming years.”
The increase in popularity of women’s football in Europe this season has been staggering.
The average attendance in the English WSL, for example, has quadrupled from 833 in 2019/20 to to 3,401. Last September, 31,000 attended the Manchester derby while over 38,000 turned up for the North London derby in November.
In Spain, there were 60,000 who went to see Barcelona play Atletico Madrid while 30,000 saw Lyon take on Paris St Germain in France.
The average salary of an English WSL player is reportedly around $50,000, while the top players earn upwards of $200,000 per season. The other European leagues particularly Germany, Spain and France are likely to increase player payments in the coming years.
It’s the type of numbers the W-League simply can’t measure up too.
The W-League average crowd has actually fallen in recent years and was down to 1,500 this past season, while the minimum salary was $16,344.
Co-incidentally the NWSL averaged around 8,000 last season on the back of the national team’s World Cup triumph. The salary range in America is $20,000 to $50,000.
A number of former Matildas have suggested the W-League should consider moving to winter, but Tay notes the current players should have a bigger say in what happens, especially due to the potential financial impact.
It would be interesting to note what current players think. There are a number who may not wish to lose income if the W-League was put at the same time as NPLW.
A number get paid all year round from playing NPLW in winter and W-League in summer. By playing both at the same time there is a risk of losing wages.