Several Matildas games consecutively broke broadcast records, culminating in at least 11.15m Australians watching the semi final against England. Image: Facebook/Commbank Matildas.

Matildas mania has swept the nation in the last month, with the Australian womens’ national football team capturing the attention and fandom of many Australians. Now, the Federal Government has announced a new grants program that will help foster womens’ sports at the grassroots level.

The team’s semi-final match against England was the most watched event in Australian broadcasting history, with 11.15m Australians tuning in to watch the match last week. Those numbers do not include all of the people watching the game at clubs, pubs and live sites.

Dr Hunter Fujak, a lecturer in sports management at Deakin University has estimated that the cumulative number of Australians watching the game was 17.15 million, equating to 64 per cent of the Australian population.

In the wake of the fervour and attention to womens’ sports off the back of a successful FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Albanese Government has announced the Play Our Way grants program, with $200m to be spent on improving sporting facilities and equipment specifically for women and girls.

Play Our Way will promote equal access, build more suitable facilities, and support grassroots initiatives to get women and girls to engage, stay, and participate in sport throughout their lives. Local governments, community organisations, the not-for-profit sector and sporting organisations can seek funding for localised solutions and improvements.

The program will be available for all sports but it is anticipated that soccer, as the highest participation sport in Australia, will need significant resourcing in the wake of the success of the  Women’s World Cup.

“The Matildas have given us a moment of national inspiration, this is about seizing that opportunity for the next generation, investing in community sporting facilities for women and girls around Australia,” stated Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

“Sport is a great unifier and a great teacher – it brings communities together, it teaches us about teamwork and resilience and the joy of shared success.

“We want women and girls everywhere in Australia to have the facilities and the support to choose a sport they love.”

An expert panel of women with a lived experience navigating community sport through to professional sport will help design the Play Our Way program to ensure it produces the most needed facilities, including former Matilda Tal Karp; former Opals captain and WNBA player Lauren Jackson; former Australian Diamonds captain Liz Ellis; and Paralympic gold-medallist Madison De Rozario.

Guidelines for Play Our Waygrants are in development and it is expected applications will open by early 2024.

Sports-watching opportunities

Live sports viewership in clubs and pubs has traditionally been dominated by men’s professional sports, but the FIFA Women’s World Cup has proven extremely popular for venues, bringing in patrons at traditionally off-peak times, as well as increasing the number of women who have attended venues to watch live sport.

The last month has highlighted an opportunity for clubs to broadcast more professional women’s sporting matches, creating another reason for members and guests to visit clubs both mid-week and on weekends.

Speaking to Club Management’s sister publication Australian Hotelier, Alistair Flower, managing director of Flower Hotels, said that on-premise venues need to consider and promote the community feel that is only possible in venues when watching live sports.

“You do compete with the cold and compete with the warmth from the convenience of the lounge room […] but you’re not going to get that really euphoric atmosphere that you’ll get at the pub. We made a real thing of making sure that there was a real hype and fun atmosphere in the venue to attract people in.”

During the Women’s World Cup, Flower saw particular success with staff  getting engaged with the game, and encouraging them to promote matches via social media.

“It is really important to have the staff fully engaged. A lot of what we’ve been doing as the management team has been making sure that all our staff are fully aware of the progress of the World Cup. It creates talking points, it creates discussions with patrons.”

Atmosphere is a big part of getting a live sports broadcast right – and you can read all about that in the ‘Ultimate Sports Bar’ feature in the current issue of Club Management below.

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