MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia risks becoming the “third or fourth” choice for professional female soccer players because European leagues continue to attract top talent, the players union said in a report released on Wednesday.
FILE PHOTOS: FA Women’s League Cup Final – Arsenal v Chelsea – City Ground, Nottingham, England – 29 February 2020 Chelsea Sam Kerr in action Action Pictures via Reuters / Andrew Boyers / Photo Files
Australia has invested heavily in women’s games, set up a professional W-League and successfully bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup with co-hosts New Zealand.
However, with a series of international players, including Australia captain Sam Kerr (Chelsea) and vice captain Steph Catley (Arsenal), moving to European alarm bells rang.
“With the appearance and appeal of European clubs and ‘locomotive’ leagues, the W-League must consider its place in the football ecosystem to ensure a career path for dignified and legitimate Australian soccer players,” said Co-Chief Executive Footballers Australia, Kathryn Gill.
“For example, is the W-League the world’s leading development path designed to catapult our most talented players to the international market?
“We must … ensure that whatever approach we adopt, women’s football in Australia does not experience a setback and the momentum of significant improvement built over the past five years continues.”
Australia’s top players previously chose the US National Women’s Football League before returning for domestic competition during the home summer.
However, the English Super League and the French Feminine First Division have now become the destination of choice.
Only two Australians were contracted in the NWSL, down from 14 in 2019, with 93% of Australians overseas now based in Europe, up from 39% a year earlier, the report said.
Gill said Australia must explore how the W-League and NWSL can work collaboratively on “the calendar year of football and partnerships that serve our international and domestic games.”
“When the football economy contracts and considers its recovery from the economic collapse of the coronavirus, it is very important that the W-League sharply defines its objectives in a rapidly developing global context.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford
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