In an era of growing prominence and respect for women’s sport, it was an untenable position and will end in the 2016/17 competition, which starts in a fortnight.
Amateur players will now receive an allowance in line with male National Youth League (NYL) and state competitions – between $60 and $150 a week. Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) chief John Didulica said the move wasn’t going to turn national league players into professionals overnight, but it was something.
“Symbolically it’s important to recognise the sacrifices W-League players make, so the small step forward of having a safety net on par with NYL players is a move in the right direction,” he said.
“The big challenge for the sport is to build a cohesive and expanded professional pathway that will enable international success and the W-League to be the jewel in the crown of women’s sport.” League bosses and PFA will attempt to do just that in the coming weeks, when they begin broad-ranging talks on growing and strengthening the competition. Improved pay is seen as crucial to continuing the success of the national team, the Matildas, by ensuring a strong talent pool of players available for selection.
Cricket and netball have vastly improved wages to their female athletes in recent months, with the forthcoming AFL women’s league bringing more competition for elite talent.
W-League clubs have been heavily encouraged by head office to spend more of their salary allowance – set at a minimum of $35,000 and a maximum of $150,000 – on players.
By comparison, A-League clubs are obliged to spend at least $2.34 million on their squads – 67 times more than their female counterparts. Melbourne City and Canberra United are the only two W-League clubs which hit or near the maximum spend.
Two-time champions Brisbane Roar drew ire for offering their players improved deals for this season – then flirted with a 40 per cent reduction – only to honour their wage rises.
The league kicks off on November 5 when Brisbane Roar host Sydney FC.