Author Topic: Football's next goal: A-League for women  (Read 948 times)

Offline David

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Football's next goal: A-League for women
« on: September 22, 2007, 09:55:17 PM »
THE world-beating exploits of Australia's women's football team, the Matildas, could be the catalyst for the sport's domestic governing body to finally re-establish the women's national league it disbanded in 2004.

Before jetting out yesterday to support the Matildas in their quarter-final showdown with Brazil tonight, the FFA's head of high performance John Boultbee, revealed to The Sun-Herald that plans were in place for a league to start in late 2008. He said the sizeable prizemoney the team had won in China could only help.

Boultbee said the FFA had received$289,000 for the Matildas' qualification for China, $116,000 for reaching the quarter-finals and would receive another $232,000 if they won tonight. Thirty per cent of all prizemoney goes to the players, a windfall many of them need and deserve.

Asked if the remaining prizemoney would go towards a women's national league, Boultbee said: "That's not been determined yet. We need to go through the right processes. But we are very keen to start a new women's national league, sums and all other logistical factors being willing."

The Matildas have captured the nation's attention with a string of courageous and entertaining performances, including a heart-stopping 2-2 draw with Canada on Thursday that assured their progression in a tournament where they had not previously won a match.

It seems a long way from 1999, when the team bared all in a calendar in a bid to gain public interest. However Amy Taylor, who became the face of that calendar, said it was "a joke" that, despite the success of the A-League, there remained no women's equivalent.

"It's disappointing that the whole shake-up of the football federation has meant women's football has been pushed to the bottom of the pile," Taylor said yesterday. "This is our third year without a national league. It's beyond a joke, really. Whether they just haven't been able to get it together, whether it's for funding or whatever reason, it's not fair. They put a lot of thought and effort into putting together the A-League, which is great. But they've never got back around to the girls' league. Hopefully the Matildas' results will make them realise that these girls are doing as well or better than the boys and they deserve the same respect."

There are almost 100,000 registered female footballers in Australia - nearly 20 per cent of the total number - marking a 42 per cent increase between 2005 and 2007. However, there is no competition linking state leagues with international-level football, a void Taylor feared could be stopping talented players from reaching their potential.

"What can our juniors aspire to do?" she asked. "You play at the under-17s and under-20s national championships and, if you haven't made the Australian team by then, what are you supposed to do? There's nowhere to go. It deters players from staying on and playing. We're losing a generation of players.

"The level of competition at the premier league level isn't satisfactory for national team players. There needs to be a competitive national league for elite players."

While our male stars make millions of dollars each year, most of the Matildas live on the breadline and must train around working regular jobs. "Then you see Collette McCallum score a free kick like she did against Canada and you think to yourself, 'Beckham gets paid millions for that'," Taylor said.