The AFL announced this morning that clubs without women’s teams – Port Adelaide, Essendon, Hawthorn and Sydney – had been invited to submit proposals by July 9 as to why they should be included for AFLW season seven, with a decision to be made by the AFL Commission in August.
The AFLW league began in 2017 with eight teams including the Crows, but has expanded to 14 teams.
The Crows have been the standout AFLW team, winning the flag in 2017 and 2019 and going down to Brisbane by 18 points in the 2021 Grand Final in April.
The AFL also said the current teams would start the next AFLW season in December this year “to give the 10-round competition clear air and prevent an overlap with the AFL competition, with the Grand Final to be held in mid-March, 2022”.
Port Adelaide chief executive Matthew Richardson said it was a “landmark day for the club”.
“We’ve made our ambition of fielding an AFLW team very clear for some time now. Today’s announcement provides clarity for the next steps to achieve this vision and add further cultural diversity to the Port Adelaide Football Club of the future,” he said.
“We are well placed to enter the AFLW competition in Season Seven which will commence in late 2022. Our AFLW working group are well progressed in preparation for the business model submission and the upgrade of our facilities at Alberton Oval are also aligned with this timeline.
“In the past three years, South Australia has had the greatest percentage of growth in female football participation in the country, and as of April in 2021, South Australia’s participation has grown 20% overall (junior, youth and senior). This growing talent pool in South Australia means a second AFLW team is critical in order to provide a pathway for young girls to pursue their dream of playing football at the highest level.
“With significant increased participation rates here in South Australia, we believe the growing talent base will enable us to enter a very competitive AFLW team as soon as possible.
“Port Adelaide’s entry into the AFLW competition will also enable an AFLW game to be played every weekend in Adelaide ensuring continual promotion and growth of the game in this surging market.”
The AFL said the women’s league was a huge success, with participation numbers rising by 100 per cent since 2015 and more than 67,000 women and girls playing the game each week, while AFL women’s football general manager Nicole Livingstone said the league was the biggest single employer of professional sportswomen in Australia.
“We have 420 women playing the game at the elite level and that will grow to 540 players by the time all four remaining AFL clubs join the competition,” she said.
“We have created a clear pathway for girls and women from Auskick to the elite competition and we are committed to continuing to work with the players, the AFLPA and the clubs over the coming years, to ensure AFLW is not only the sport of choice for women, but it is a sport that provides more women the opportunity to choose to make it the career of choice.”
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the the competition had “built a new audience base for the code with some 4.5 million AFLW fans, 155,908 attendees, 6.1 million viewers and an incredible 20 per cent of supporters who are new or first-time AFL attendees”.
“But we don’t feel that the competition is whole without all 18 clubs, and we know from the clubs that they don’t feel whole now without an AFLW team,” he said.
“AFLW is not just a competition that makes our game better, but a culture that makes our whole industry better.
“We have seen the interest grow as we went from eight teams to 10, and then to 14, and we expect that growth to continue as we move to engage all 18 clubs and their supporters. Clubs and their supporters want to be part of the AFLW, and we want another two million supporters to get behind their AFLW teams.
“AFLW has significant momentum and we want to keep that momentum and bring the power and the supporter base behind all 18 clubs before the end of 2024. The standard of play has continued to lift as we have expanded the competition and we are seeing more free-flowing and attacking football as more talent comes through the pathways.”
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