The players union announced a goal of seeing the top 60 players in the league making a minimum of $60,000 a season for their on field efforts. Professional Footballers Australia has set out a road map for the league and teams over the past months outlining the steps that must be put in place for the sport to grow. Player development will be at the center of this effort to not only to set up a high talent league, but also to translate that talent to the national team stage.
Currently only one team in the league demonstrates a fully professional set up, current champions Melbourne City FC. Their success speaks for itself, being the only team in the competition with back to back titles, despite having only entered the league two years ago. The benefit of money from the Emirates and proven systems across three continents in men’s leagues does not hurt either.
However, there are other women’s sports that are emerging in Australia. The rise of AFL Women‘s competition, cricket’s Women’s Big Bash League and the expansion of the Netball competition, the Australian public has shown that it will watch women play at the highest level, both at live events and on television. Longer standing women’s competitions like the Women’s National Basketball League and the W-League are now having to catch up in regards to pay in order to keep highly trained athletes in more traditional Australian sports.
The PFA and the FFA have always argued that soccer, with its global links, offers more opportunity for athletic young women than a sport like footy does. In the PFA report it shows that for Under-16 girls, soccer has the highest participation rate in Australia with a major rise in numbers over the past decade, buoyed by success at the Women’s World Cup and the domestic competition.
Despite this, players are not seeing the success translate into funding of the game’s resources nor salary increases. The minimum W-League wage is $2500 per year, while top Matildas players receive at least $42,000. Despite those disincentives the Matildas are one of the top sides in the world and are regular qualifiers for the World Cup and the Olympic Football tournaments.
Players can top up their salary with extra payments from their W-League teams and overseas contracts. There are estimated to be 30 players in the W-League who earn $60,000 or more from all sources. Many players play year round, either in the NWSL, Europe, or in the lower domestic leagues which start in March and finish in August. This means that they train and compete year round. The results of that translate into a shorter life as a player since they are more likely to sustain injuries and wear down their body from lack of seasonal breaks to recover.
Rumors are also swirling around about an additional team to be added to the competition, something that will also increase top level participation and bring about a stronger league as a whole.