The AFL has revealed its ambitious plan to make women’s football the top female sport in Australia — in more ways than one. See what they have planned here.
Women holding half the AFLW’s senior coaching positions, players paid better than every other female domestic competition in Australia and equal participation in community ranks.
Those are among the key strategic targets of the AFL’s vision for women’s football by 2030.
AFL general manager of women’s football Nicole Livingstone announced those aims on Wednesday – a month before the start of the sixth elite women’s season.
The vision does not include a commitment to having full-length campaigns or equal pay with the AFL.
To help achieve the goal of women making up 50 per cent of AFLW senior coaches, the league has created a female coach “acceleration program”, aiming to fast-track their development and progression.
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None of the 14 clubs involved in the upcoming season have women as the head mentor, only three have been at the helm since the competition’s inception in 2017 and 6.8 per cent of all coaches are females.
Under the new program, all AFL clubs can apply for one of six positions in which successful applicants will be mentored by a senior men’s coach and have access to the box on matchdays, as well as match committee meetings and planning sessions for at least two years.
The league was also determined to level participation rates in community football, where females made up 17.3 per cent of everyone registered, as of 2019.
Women’s football has grown rapidly in Australia over the past decade, from 205 community teams in 2010 to more than 2500 today, as 600,000 females participate in the game.
Livingstone said the women’s football vision reflected the league’s continued commitment to building on the work of the game’s female pioneers and to progress the code at every level.
She said the AFLW – set to add four teams at the end of 2022, giving every men’s club a women’s side – had made great headway in its five seasons but had plenty of work to do.
“We are working towards a future where women’s sport continues to be more visible and more valued, where there is equal opportunity for women to play, coach, umpire, administer and govern the game, where talent pathways are visible and well-resourced, where we have 18 teams in high performance environments and where our AFLW players are the highest paid domestic sportswomen in the country,” Livingstone said.
“Our mission remains to accelerate the growth of the AFLW economy to create greater opportunities on and off the field for our best women players and administrators.
“The vision also reinforces the AFL’s commitment to increasing representation and diversity across all facets of football and ensuring more women are recruited into senior football roles at the AFL and at clubs, including coaching across both men’s and women’s programs.
“From a community football perspective, it is important we continue to strengthen participation from NAB AFL Auskick to junior and senior community football in environments that are equally safe and inclusive.”
The league’s vision also included strengthening pathways so women are positioned for senior administrative roles, having the most engaged audience of any female code in Australia and attracting more corporate support.
Livingstone said hurdles for women’s football included fewer than 35 per cent of facilities being deemed inclusive for females.
“Our ambition is to remove the barriers that still exist to enable and empower women that choose our sport to pursue their careers on or off the field (and) to do so in safe environments that provide equal opportunities for women and girls and equally value their contributions,” she said.
On the issue of pay, Livingstone said: “Our AFLW competition is about to enter its sixth season and while we have come a long way, we know we have much work left to do to build the revenue required to deliver better pay outcomes for players”.
Other key initiatives included:
■ Developing a national under-16 program competition to provide earlier exposure to high-performance programs
■ Ensuring all 18 AFLW clubs have dedicated player development managers to provide support for footballers’ lives outside the game
■ Further developing the AFL women’s coaching and umpiring academy to support progression into senior ranks
■ Continue to progress and nurture the engagement of Indigenous and culturally diverse girls