The Central Coast Mariners can today advise that Football Federation Australia have formally responded to the club’s submission to be re-introduced to the Westfield W-League.
Last month the Hyundai A-League Club ownership group, The Australian Professional Football Clubs Association (APFCA), made a submission to Football Federation Australia (FFA) in support of the Central Coast Mariners re-introduction to the 2018/19 Westfield W-League (WWL) season.
APFCA have since received a formal response from Football Federation Australia which outlines the governing body’s immediate areas for investment regarding the WWL. The letter implies that these priorities do NOT include the expansion of the competition to 10 teams.
In Football Federation Australia’s letter to APFCA the following two initiatives have been identified as their most immediate priorities for to the WWL:
- Broadcast and live streaming of all WWL matches and
- Delivering a full home and away schedule
Whilst Central Coast Mariners and APFCA support further FFA investment in the WWL and W-League clubs, both organisations believe the Mariners immediate inclusion in the WWL should be considered as a separate topic that will grow the women’s game and talent pool immediately rather than an opportunity that needs to wait in line.
The Central Coast Mariners strongly believe that the addition of a Mariners W-League team would positively contribute to Australian female football development by providing:
- Elimination of the competition’s ‘bye round’
- Increased professional opportunities for elite female footballers
- Increased professional playing opportunities for young Matildas (who currently struggle for game time with the existing nine WWL clubs)
- Expansion of WWL without overlapping with overseas female football leagues (such as the NWSL)
- Improve Australia’s chances of hosting and winning the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup by widening the country’s talent pool
- Only the second complete professional female football development pathway in the country. The Mariners are one of only two professional football clubs in Australia to offer a women’s pathway, starting from the U10 SAP to first grade NPL. A Mariners W-League team completes the football landscape for boys and girls on the Central Coast
- Ability to increase attendances at Central Coast Stadium through A-League/W-League double headers (significant government investment has gone towards constructing additional change rooms to facilitate this in response to FFA’s feedback last year about this being a necessity for Mariners’ future W-League inclusion)
- The Central Coast is the only region with no competing national sports – with no NRL, AFL, Netball or BBL in the area, the Central Coast could be the true “heartland of football”
- Increased community engagement by providing more role models for young girls and harness the committed corporate support ready to invest.
Central Coast Mariners Chairman, Mike Charlesworth responded to FFA’s letter with the following comments:
“I’m bewildered by Football Federation Australia’s position,” Charlesworth said. “Their decision is based around a lack of talent in the country – despite the fact that we have arguably the best academy and pathway for girls in Australia with approximately 100 girls on the Central Coast working hard to become a Matilda one day.
“If FFA want to develop women’s football, they should be working with us, not restricting us, all at a time when Australia is bidding to host the Women’s World cup in 2023.
“If FFA are deviating from their own Whole of Football Plan, then what is their plan?” Charlesworth said.
Central Coast Mariners CEO, Shaun Mielekamp also spoke about the Mariners’ passion to help the women’s game in Australia grow.
“The FFA have written to APFCA and confirmed that the priorities for the W-League this season are to increase the broadcast and expand to a full home and away competition before permitting our re-entry and removing the bye round,” Mielekamp said. “We agree that broadcast improvements and a full home and away season [that does not negatively impact players playing overseas] are priorities that should be achieved; however, we simply can’t see why our re-entry must wait until these other priorities are implemented.
“We will take FFA’s feedback on board and we are arranging a visit from key FFA staff to ensure they see with their own eyes just how far we have progressed our Academy and the great job the Central Coast Council has done in improving facilities at the stadium.
“We will continue to push our case for immediate re-entry and if the FFA aren’t going to expand the competition to a full home and away season – then the question we’re asking is what does next season look like and what will be done to grow the women’s game in the immediate future?”
Central Coast Mariners have been left confused by FFA’s response to the Mariners WWL bid which contradicts the governing body’s own 2015 Whole of Football plan.
Page 87 of the document states:
“At a minimum, every top tier club in Australia should have an A-League team and a W-League team. This is important because: Unlike every other Australian sport, football clubs will be able to connect to their communities by providing male and female role models. Above everything else, football fans appreciate good football and the W-League is top quality football that attracts male and female fans. Furthermore, having an A-League and W-League team will allow clubs to host more top quality double headers.”
APFCA and Central Coast Mariners will continue to seek the Mariners inclusion into the WWL 2018/19 Season as a matter of priority and call on FFA to implement a clear strategy for the development of the WWL, including the re-introduction of Central Coast Mariners as a 10th team, that aligns with the Whole of Football plan.
Key Quotes from Mariners W-League Ambassadors, Julie Dolan & Dan Barrett.
Julie Dolan (FFA Hall of Fame inductee and Mariners W-League Ambassador)
“Football Federation Australia’s current position is disappointing for the Central Coast and fans of women’s football,” Dolan said. “Women’s football, and women’s sport in general is experiencing unprecedented success, support, media and corporate backing and it would seem an opportune moment to further build the W-League through the inclusion of a Mariners W-League team.
“I trust the FFA now intends to use its resources to resolve any issues they see as impediments to the launch of a Central Coast Mariners W-League team,” Dolan said.
Dan Barrett (Mariners Women’s NPL Head Coach and W-League Ambassador)
"A club like the Mariners with a purpose built female development program and pathway only adds to this talent pool. I can tell you from being on the ground, we have good young players here that deserve this opportunity. They should have the opportunity to be nurtured in their own backyard with hunger to compete for their home club in front of family and friends,” Barrett said.