Over the past few years Australia has witnessed an escalation of females playing football, rallied by the success of our national girls’ team, the Matildas. Sydney’s Football Edge – developed to inspire female players and drive participation in the game at all levels – has welcomed the change. And here, its camp director, Pippa Algar, discusses the historic boom.

David Gallop, chief executive of the Football Federation of Australia (FFA), says we now have more than 100,000 female players in Australia – that’s one in five of all registered participants. This is a sign of the strength of women’s football, but also a platform for future growth.

‘The extraordinary growth in female participation in the modern era has changed the face of football in Australia,’ affirms Gallop. ‘It’s now a regular feature of our game to follow the Westfield Matildas at FIFA World Cups, to watch the Westfield W-League on TV and see huge numbers of women and girls on our pitches all over the nation.’

The facts

  • There has been a 32 per cent rise in girls’ participation in football over the last 10 years in the 6-13 age group.
  • Football is now the most popular sport for girls among this age group, overtaking netball for the first time in Australia.

Why such an increase?

The rapid increase in the profile and success of the national team, the Matildas, has had a significant effect on girls’ participation in the sport.

In 2007, after a quarter-finals performance in the Women’s World Cup, it was identified that in order to develop the success of the national team along with growing the elite pathway for female players, a strong domestic league would need to be created. This saw the development of the W-League in 2008 which gave a platform for Australian players to be able to play in a high-quality league at home.

There has also been a significant increase in TV coverage for both the W-League and national games. This has provided great exposure for the game as well as greater access for young girls to create and follow role models.

In 2015, the Matildas’ performance in the Women’s World Cup saw the women become the only football team in Australian history (both male and female) to win in the knockout stages at a World Cup.

There have also been many initiatives from governing bodies to promote participation among girls. The most recent and relevant one being the Whole of Football Plan produced by the FFA, which has a strong focus on player development.

How will we cope with such a boom in participation?

Junior football teams are traditionally run by volunteers and it is now visible that some areas are struggling to cope with this increase in players. This recent boom has seen some strain on local clubs trying to cope with the demand.

Football Federation Australia and Football New South Wales has now recognised the need to develop the participation and quality of coaching of junior football teams and to provide adequate opportunities for girls through skill development programs as well as organised competitions. In order to keep the retention rate of girls in football it is important that we provide high-quality sessions coached by trained and educated coaches, such as those on offer at Football Edge.

Let’s work together and help make Australia a driving force for women’s football!

Football EdgeFootball Edge was developed to increase participation and performance of girls in football. Its programs create a safe and positive environment for girls to develop their football skills, become educated in training techniques and performance, and develop positive attitudes towards the game and teammates. Pippa, and the other staff at Football Edge would love to see Australia become the leading country for participation and elite performance in women’s football, along with a proportionate increase in quality female coaches and referees across all participation levels. Check out the Football Edge website to keep up to date with programs currently running in your area. Also visit Facebook.

Feature photography: North West Sydney Koalas vs North Shore Mariners

Are you embracing the growth in female football, too? Have you given up another sport to play the world’s most popular game? Let us know in the comments section below.

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