Wave the flag: Young fans will soon have the opportunity to cheer for a Western United W-League team with the club set to add a female squad by the 2022-23 season. Photo: FILE

Western United part of W-League expansion

September 10, 2021 BY

THE W-League will expand from nine to twelve teams by 2023 in a bid to capitalise on the looming Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Western United, along with Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast, will receive licences for the region’s leading female soccer league over the next two years, in the first expansion since Melbourne City joined in 2015.

Australian Professional Leagues managing director Danny Townsend said the “likely scenario” is one team will join for the upcoming season with the other two to enter by 2022-23.

“The Women’s World Cup is an enormous opportunity for Australian sport, football and women’s football and women’s sport, so it’s going to have a huge impact on all Australians,” he said.

“But it’s 30 days in 2023, it doesn’t deliver you everything. You need to work around it and you have to invest in it ahead of time to ensure the halo effect of that fantastic event will deliver a legacy for women’s football.

“It’s probably the most overused word, ‘legacy’, but investing ahead of that will ensure there is genuinely one.

“Women’s football is going to go from strength to strength beyond that World Cup, but only if we sweat the asset and that’s investing in it, which we’re doing on a number of different levels, not just expansion.”

Wellington appear likely to join the W-League first, after they were close to securing a licence for last season, with Central Coast, who previously had a team for two seasons in 2008 and 2009, and United to follow a year later.

Macarthur FC were keen to have a licence but as they only entered the A-League last season, will be given time to plan.

Western United chair Jason Sourasis welcomed the news and said that a women’s team has always been part of the club’s plans.

“We’ve been relentless in our pursuit of this licence,” he said.

“We’ve been adamant from the beginning that our club is not complete until we can provide opportunity for all footballers of the west to represent their region at a professional level and aspire to have the opportunity to represent their country.

“This is a landmark day for the Green and Black and shows our commitment to growing football in the west for everyone.

“We are privileged to be able to build a club for the future that will provide opportunities to both genders from the beginning of the Western United journey.”

Western United currently has a partnership with Calder United FC, where a women’s squad has been in development.

That side has played exhibition games in Ballarat, Geelong and Tasmania.

“We’ve worked hard to seed the inception of female football at our club by building a strong partnership with Calder United,” Sourasis said.

“It’s been a brave partnership and I thank all of the people involved for their effort and vision.”

As part of the collaboration with Calder an elite women’s program was developed with access for some players to coaching staff at Western United.

Amanda Stella is the head of female football at Western United and the president of Calder United.

She said she was, “overjoyed with pride and excitement for what’s next.”

“I know how much this means to our girls who love the game of football and want to be the best and represent the west.

“It’s really just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg for what we can achieve together for the sport and the region,” Stella said.

With the extra team this season the traditional four-team W-League finals series will be expanded to three weeks with the addition of a preliminary final.

Townsend emphasised the APL’s commitment to independent club Canberra United.

The 2021-22 regular season will remain at 12 rounds – with the 10th team replacing the ‘bye’ – but Townsend said adding teams would get the W-League “on that path” to a full home-and-away season.

He also said he was confident the pipeline of young talent was there to justify expansion.

 

-WITH AAP

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