When Matildas coach Alen Stajcic boldly stated “We want to win the World Cup” earlier this week, he might have been greeted with a few wry smiles. But after his side beat the US on home soil before cruising past Japan and following that with a 6-1 demolition of Brazil on Friday morning, the doubters have become believers and the question has changed from “really?” to “why can’t we?”
The Matildas have long been the darlings of n football and this week they showed they could be so much more. Their whitewash of the Tournament of Nations delivered them another trophy, drew plaudits from around the world and strengthened their claim as ‘s most successful national team.
It was as much a display of character as it was of an emerging force in the women’s game. Goalkeeper Lydia Williams was inspirational with her heroics against the US. Midfielders Katrina Gorry, Emily Van Egmond and Elise Kellond-Knight were typically ruthless and classy. A new leader flourished once more in defender Steph Catley while girls around the country will now be playing for their local clubs on Saturday morning trying to emulate four-goal hero Sam Kerr.
Yet again, the Matildas hit every KPI. But if they’re to take the next step forward, they’ll need Football Federation ‘s marketing team to do the same.
The players are no longer just able to match the best in the world, they are clearly among them. It’s not so much opposing teams that threaten that newfound status, but the lack of investment.
Some players are earning a base salary as little as $30,000 a year. The W-League can’t afford to stage a full home-and-away series while the budget for the national team places limitations on games and training camps. After their latest triumph, the question must be asked “where are the sponsors hiding”?
Surely they should have started to trickle in seven years ago, when the Matildas became the first n team to win an Asian title. When they reached the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup, the players were expecting things to change. They were entitled to a share of prize money and they were relishing the prospect of a bonus from a sponsor. That bonus never arrived. And neither did the commercial partners. They were one penalty kick away from a medals match at the 2016 Olympics but remained much further away from the much-needed lucrative sponsorship deals. Now, after claiming another trophy at the expense of the world’s No.1 nation, the Asian and South American champions, it’s now or never for the FFA to field offers.
For all their appeal, the Matildas commercial return remains paltry. Only Westfield – with family ties to the FFA – and the n government (AIS) are listed as stand-alone sponsors of the team. Their appeal should be rewarded with more and their latest triumph should change that, according to sports marketing experts.
“Most companies see themselves as the best and they want to associate themselves with the best and I don’t think the Matildas can do anything more,” said Nicholas Livermore, director of Dynamic Sports Marketing.
The Matildas are successful, athletic, charming, removed from the threat of controversy and seemingly the perfect role models. They’re representative of all corners of the country; The strike force of Kerr and De Vanna represent Perth. Sydney has future stars in Ellie Carpenter and Princess Ibini. Queenslanders Gorry and Tameka Butt run the midfield while the capital holds the fort through goalkeeper Williams. That’s just the start.
Just as importantly, they’re flag-bearers of our cultural make-up. The current squad boasts players from Indigenous, Indian, Lebanese, Nigerian, Italian, Croatian, Portuguese, Dutch and anglo-n backgrounds, only furthering the potential of their mass appeal. Put simply, the Matildas are the sum of their parts.
Surely, they tick every box for a potential sponsor. That appeal is only set to become more valuable with their 2018 Asian Cup, 2019 World Cup and the bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup. But there’s something holding them back.
“I won’t comment on the FFA but they need more exposure on free-to-air television,” Livermore said. “I think they’re extremely marketable and attractive but unfortunately free-to-air TV dictates what sponsorship is worth.”
The Matildas have two more games on home soil against Brazil next month, televised on Fox Sports and ABC. The iron remains hot for another month at least. Surely, the FFA must realise the potential of ‘s most successful national team becoming its most marketable.