The idea to employ a professional national women’s football league isn’t exactly a new one.
With the WNBL, W-League and now the newly formed women’s Big Bash League already challenging the ANZ Championship netball league for the most popular women’s sport on television, it seems like again the AFL is too slow when tackling important issues.
But AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan might have picked the perfect time to start a national league. Although the talent pool isn’t yet broad enough, the introduction of a national league would no doubt increase the popularity of the women’s game.
The first few years of the national league would be rocky indeed, but like any new idea, it takes at least three years to see exponential growth.
By 2020 the league might even be of a very high standard with an even spread of talent. The biggest challenge with a new league is the distribution of talent, as a lopsided league would do no favours in terms of television audiences.
A draft would not only aid talent distribution, it would create an entirely new niche market for draft fans as well as job opportunities in talent scouting. It would certainly be a positive step forward in terms of professionalism in the league.
“I’m challenging our team to be more bullish about the growth of women’s football,” McLachlan told Fairfax Media.
“We’ve had spectacular growth in women playing football and we’re very keen to get a women’s league up and running. I’m being pushy because I want to do it earlier.”
McLachlan will indeed look to ensure the women’s game will be included in the next broadcasting deal, which by no coincidence comes in 2017, the very same year that is the estimated launch of the women’s national league.
Whilst the AFL has a dominance on Victorian televisions, the possibility of having a women’s league televised in the northern states before the Australian Women’s Rugby League does would be a one-up that McLachlan could only dream of. Whilst the AWRL has been around since 1993, they have struggled to get their foot in the market, despite on-field success.
If the AFL can even get one women’s game per week on free to air, it would be a mighty triumph. The success of the BBL in terms of midweek viewership could be a road that the AFL is encouraged by.
A midweek game, whilst not guaranteed to dominate the ratings, would be an ideal spot so it isn’t entirely lost in the constant stream of AFL news.
2017 in terms of strategy will be an ideal time to start the women’s league, but it shouldn’t be scrutinised until at least 2020, when it’s had time to build its identity as a code.