Though much of the focus was placed upon the impact that a proposed second tier of football would have for the A-League, National Premier Leagues and their associated youth programs; the work of the Second Division Working Group has also offered a hint towards the direction of women’s football in Australia.
Commencing work in late February and featuring representatives from Football Federation Australia (FFA), the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC), Professional Footballers Australia, (PFA) and Member Federations, the Working Group on Thursday laid down a host of recommendations for an Australian second division centring on commercial viability, pathways, promotion and relegation and the makeup of the competition.
The white paper will now be handed to a steering committee made up of FFA Chairman Chris Nikou, two Member Federations representatives, two representatives of the AAFC, one from the PFA and a representative from an A-League club that will be tasked with delivering a roadmap for the implementation of the competition to the FFA Board by November.
The paper’s introduction acknowledged that the focus of the document was on the introduction of a men’s second tier, an equivalent in the women’s game deemed to not be a viable economic proposition in the near to medium term.
Instead, the continued strengthening and consolidation of the W-League as the major focus for the top level of women’s football was identified as an immediate focus; with strategic priorities centring around the implementation of a full home-and-away season and the expansion of the league to, at least, ensure that all Australian A-League sides have a W-League equivalent.
The Central Coast Mariners are the only existing A-League side without a W-League side currently competing, whilst Western United and Macarthur FC will also enter the league without one. All three clubs have expressed an interest in fielding W-League sides in the future.
Earlier this month, a collective bargaining agreement extension agreed upon between the PFA and FFA raised the W-League’s minimum remuneration by 33% to $16,344, ensuring that W-League players received the same minimum remuneration based on an hourly rate.
A recommendation was also made in the white paper to put into place a plan that would ensure that all clubs competing within the proposed men’s national second tier also fielded a women’s team playing at the highest possible level within their local competitions.
Ultimately, these teams would then likely serve as the bedrock of a national second division.
However, recognizing that several states and territories around the current do not currently operate Women’s NPL (WNPL) competitions, the strengthening of the women’s game at a state level was recognized as another pressing priority for the game to “ensure that development occurs at multiple levels of the female football pyramid.”
Ultimately, the white paper suggested that the issue of a national second tier for women’s football be a standing policy/agenda item for the overseers of the new competition, with intermittent reviews in the first three years of the competition.
A recommendation was made for a dedicated review into the feasibility of a women’s second division should occur in 2022. That could then see the introduction of a national second division as soon as 2023 alongside a possible Women’s World Cup in Australia.