As Australia and New Zealand celebrated their successful bid to co-host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in the early hours of Friday morning, it began to sink in for many just how monumental the event will be.
The last Women’s World Cup, played in 2019, had a record total of 1.12 billion viewers on television and digitally.
In 2023, the tournament is predicted to reach an even bigger audience, given the additional number of teams that will be participating and the expected growth of the women’s game over the next three years.
One and a half million people are expected to attend the Trans-Tasman tournament across the two countries. Australian Federal Youth and Sports Minister Richard Colbeck has said the event will provide a significant uplift to Australia’s post-COVID economic recovery.
“It has been estimated in the context of hundreds of millions of dollars,” Colbeck said. “This is a huge event, this is a big deal. It’s the biggest women’s sporting event on the planet.”
John Wylie, Chair of the Australian Sports Commission, says the football tournament in 2023, along with other women’s sport events over the next three years, have the potential to fast-track the growth of women’s sport in the region.
It will be the biggest football event ever held in Australia, and the impact of this cannot be underestimated. Giving the Matildas the chance to represent Australia on home soil, is incredibly significant.
In an open letter, Wylie emphasised that hosting the World Cup gives us the opportunity to get more girls and women playing sport than ever before.
As he points out, almost half of girls between 15-17 stop playing club sport. As girls become teenagers, they remain as active as their male counterparts but tend to stray from organised sport. It means they often miss the opportunity sport provides to build confidence, social skills, leadership, resilience and engage in teamwork.
“This is where it’s important to showcase sporting opportunities and why tournaments such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup are crucial. It’s about creating a connection with sport,” he wrote.
“Our AusPlay research places netball, football and basketball as the top three team club sports for female participation. Gymnastics and swimming are also among the most popular club sport activities for younger girls, while tennis and Australian football are favoured strongly by women.”
Hosting the Women’s World Cup gives our elite female football players a real chance to display their talent, showing girls across Australia that they can become what they see. Creating connection to the sport at a professional level is essential to getting more girls involved.
And it’s not just football that can help build that connection. The growth of women’s sport in Australia in recent years has been unparalleled.
“This generation of girls has seen a female jockey win the Melbourne Cup, a humble Indigenous superstar become the world’s No. 1 tennis player and an Australian woman crowned world surfing champion nine of the past 13 years,” Wylie wrote.
“On home soil, they’ve seen the Australian women’s cricket team win the 2019 T20 World Cup in front of a record-breaking crowd of 86,174 in Melbourne. The Diamonds won the 2015 World Cup in front of a world record 16,752. They saw the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the first where women’s medal events equalled the men’s.”
“They have seen spectators turned away from a sold out debut of the AFLW competition in 2018, a national women’s rugby league competition emerge and their marquee clash given State of Origin status.”
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Football Federation Association modelling is already predicting a spike in female registration in grassroots football in the coming years. It’s leading towards a 50-50 gender split by 2027.
Wylie says an ongoing commitment to growing sport for girls and women is a no-brainer.
“Very few can become world’s best at their sport, but everyone should have the opportunity to become their very best self by a connection with sport.”
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