A major stand out in the current sporting climate is the lack of women’s sport on TV. If things were back to normal, the National Netball League - which generally runs from May to August - would be the only active major women’s sporting competition.
Due to Fox Sports' significantly reduced contract to broadcast next season, the W-League's 2020/21 season will start in December and end in the cold, wintery months of July.
“This leaves an amazing opportunity for W-League to seize the day and grab an ever-growing market segment that craves women’s sport,” says Western Sydney Wanderers fan and former NPLW player Allison Viney.
“With community leagues usually running from March to September, it leaves a wonderful opportunity for women’s football to connect with the grassroots.
“W-League players can visit community clubs and schools, thus connecting better with their fans, all while football is at the forefront of the minds of impressionable youngsters.”
Viney, who recently retired after four years of playing NPLW, also saw the opportunity to use the NPLW leagues across the country as a direct feeder competition for the W-League.
“It also provides a chance for the NPLW pathway to link more closely to the nation’s top domestic league,” says Viney.
“Fringe W-League players can move back to the NPLW to get game time and enhance the standard of the second tier; it also gives standout NPLW players a greater chance to get promoted to the W-League.”
Moving the W-League to winter, and running it as a proper full-time competition, has been long suggested by a number of former Matildas, including Angela Iannotta and Shelley Youman.
The only challenge is the direct competition with the American NWSL, which is the world’s leading women’s competition and attracts a number of the worlds best footballers including a number of Matildas.
However, Europe is now a major player in the women’s game and their season runs from August to May, which eats right into the traditional W-League summer timetable.
This has been emphasised with the news that Matildas star Ellie Carpenter has moved to French powerhouse Lyon for the upcoming European season.
Average crowds in the past few years have barely exceeded 1,500 for the W-League, meaning experimenting with a winter season appears more appealing.
With Foxtel significantly cutting down its $57M per year TV deal, there is also room for a potential new broadcaster to seek to fill the women’s sports void that currently exists from April to September.
“We will lose players to Europe now anyway,” says Viney. “We may as well play in winter and see what happens.”