$200m girls’ sports fund unveiled after Matildas’ success

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A $200 million fund to give girls the same chance at a professional sporting career as boys will be unveiled in the wake of the Matildas’ groundbreaking Women’s World Cup performance.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will on Saturday reveal the Play Our Way program, which Labor says is one of the biggest-ever boosts to women’s sport, to transform playing infrastructure for women and girls.

Matildas captain Sam Kerr has called for more funding to develop grassroots soccer in Australia.Credit: Getty Images

He will also flag a plan to guarantee more free-to-air broadcasts of women’s sports after much of the World Cup was hidden by a paywall.

The announcement comes after calls from football figures including Matildas captain Sam Kerr for the government to match its game-day barracking with tangible backing in the form of grassroots funding.

The government media release does not specify the funding is for soccer, meaning it may disappoint football figures who argue the sport has been underfunded by governments for decades.

However, it does state that “soccer, as the highest participation sport in Australia, will need significant resourcing in the wake of the greatest Women’s World Cup ever”.

The Matildas, Albanese said, “have given us a moment of national inspiration, this is about seizing that opportunity for the next generation”.

“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,” he said.

Albanese and Sport Minister Anika Wells went onto the pitch at recent Matildas matches and the prime minister attended their semi-final loss to England, after which Kerr issued a plea for an immediate funding boost for her sport.

“I can only speak for the Matildas [but], you know, we need funding in our development, we need funding in our grassroots. We need funding, you know, we need funding everywhere,” Kerr said on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and FIFA president Gianni Infantino pose for photos with the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 winner’s trophy at Parliament House on Wednesday.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton promised $250 million for community sports earlier in the week.

Labor, cognisant of a scandal involving sports grants allegedly distributed by the former Coalition government for political purposes, promised its fund’s administration would be transparent and guided by expert advice.

While all Matildas matches were broadcast on free-to-air, only 15 of all 64 tournament matches were available free, with the remainder on subscription service Optus Sport.

As part of the funding announcement, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland will flag an expansion of what is known as the anti-siphoning list, which contains certain sporting events including the men’s football World Cup, that must be offered to free-to-air stations before subscription services.

“The government’s preferred reforms will bring online services into the regulatory framework and broaden the range of events on the list to include more women’s sports and para-sports,” Rowland said in a statement.

Wells said: “Too often women and girls are changing in men’s bathrooms, wearing hand-me-down boys’ uniforms, [or] playing with men’s equipment on poor fields that boys’ teams wouldn’t train on.”

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