AFL sets out plan to drive women and girls participation

THE AFL Commission has approved more than $5 million in new investment to fund phase one of the 2022 Women and Girls Action Plan, designed to drive participation and representation for women and girls across all aspects of community football from playing to coaching, umpiring and administering.

The action plan has been developed to help achieve the aspirations in participation outlined in the Women’s Football Vision, which was released late in 2021 and has a stated objective that the game will strive for equal participation and representation by the end of this decade.

The $5 million upfront commitment for the next three years comes in addition to the AFL’s $8 million extra investment into community football announced in December 2021, to help rebuild the grassroots game after two years of COVID disruptions. 

AFL to invest $5m into women and girls community football

02:47 Jun 14. 2022. 5:33 PM

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announces a new investment to fund the first phase of the Women and Girls Action Plan, to drive participation and representation across all aspects of community football

The latest funding to support the first phase of the action plan is designed to further accelerate progress and create step change in grassroots football for women and girls. This includes adding or expanding programs to attract, retain and encourage women and girls across every aspect of community football from NAB AFL Auskick, schools, community club participation, leadership, coaching and umpiring.

Key outcomes aimed for in the plan, which is backed by extensive research, include:

  • Deliver girls-only offerings at every NAB AFL Auskick Centre and deliver all-girls competitions from U9 upwards in every region to encourage retention of young girls
  • A 50/50 gender split of all AFL-run school programs and competitions to provide the same opportunities for girls
  • Further develop 40 talent-identified community coaches annually through the national ‘She Can Coach’ program
  • Upskill 600 current community coaches and target more than 3000 new female coaches to increase women in coaching from eight per cent to 18 per cent
  • Further develop 40 emerging talented umpires annually and target nearly 1800 new female community umpires so women make up 20 per cent of all accredited umpires by 2025 (up from 11 per cent)
  • Deliver 100 existing oval enhancement and/or lighting projects to provide more facilities to cater for women and girls
  • Deliver 200 targeted gender-neutral player and umpire amenity improvement projects to ensure improved facilities
  • Establish a national community football grants program to increase access to education and resources and support local women to set up new competitions, clubs and teams
  • More balanced gender leadership across community leagues and clubs
  • Deliver tailored transition and entry-point programs for coaching and umpiring
  • Ensure specific women and girls targets are embedded in all workplans and staff goals for AFL employees

Women and girls participation in Australian football has surged since the inception of AFLW in 2017. Nearly 600,000 women and girls participate in the game and there are more than 2,500 community football teams around the country, compared to around 600 in 2015. 

AFL General Manager Women’s Football, Nicole Livingstone, said: “Football has made incredible progress in developing the game for women and girls at all levels and this action plan is another big step forward.

“The Women’s Football Vision set out to make our elite level players the best paid female athletes in domestic sport by end of the decade and as part of that we have increased pay by 94 per cent for the upcoming AFLW Season Seven, which starts in August and will involve all 18 AFL clubs for the first time. 

“From a community football perspective, we now have 600,000 women and girls participating in our game and it is important we continue to strengthen participation from NAB AFL Auskick to junior and senior community football in environments that are equally safe and inclusive at all levels.

“This is why we have committed to these actions, to ensure that what we are aspiring to will become reality. We want to drive the growth of female football across the board with players, coaches, umpires and administrators.”

AFL Executive General Manager, Rob Auld, said: “It is a priority for the AFL to continue to create and support more opportunities for women and girls in every part of our game and at all levels, to ensure everyone has a positive experience with Australian football.

“These actions set out what we are committed to delivering from a participation perspective, to support the AFL’s aspiration of driving equal participation and representation across all levels of community football by 2030. We need to provide the best possible environments for women and girls in order to accelerate growth across umpiring, coaching, administering and playing.

“When we’ve run programs and invested in the game for women and girls, we’ve seen tangible results with increases in participation. The AFL offered a grant funding program in Victoria to drive more women and girls teams that resulted in three new competitions, 11 new clubs and more than 900 new women and girls playing our game. 

“We have also seen the benefit of identifying and investing in women who are talented coaches and umpires, and we will continue to expand our pathways and opportunities to fulfil their potential.

“The initial $5 million investment for 2023-25, approved by the AFL Commission, underlines our commitment as a code to driving the number of women in our game in every position, at every level. It starts in local football where women and girls need to see it to be it.”

The AFL and AFL Players Association (AFLPA) recently announced a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) has been reached for 2022 NAB AFLW Season Seven with average player salaries increasing 94% across the board.