When the Matildas lost the World Cup semi-final to England this week, captain Sam Kerr was clear: greater investment may have prevented the team from falling at the final hurdle.
After the lead-up was dominated by conversations about a public holiday, Kerr said the Matildas would prefer to leave a legacy of funding.
“We need funding in our development, we need funding in our grassroots. We need funding everywhere,” she said.
The Matildas may have not have won the grand final – or secured Australians a public holiday – but their legacy is set to be immortalised with a “significant” $200 million commitment to funding women’s sport.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will announce on Saturday morning the “Play Our Way” program, to improve sporting facilities and equipment specifically for women and girls.
He said the Matildas, alongside the Diamonds and the Wallaroos had captured the nation’s hearts and “changed Australian sport forever”, and that momentum must “ripple through generations”.
“The Matildas have given us a moment of national inspiration. This is about seizing that opportunity for the next generation, investing in community sporting facilities for women and girls around Australia,” Mr Albanese said.
“We want women and girls everywhere in Australia to have the facilities and the support to choose a sport they love.”
Sports Minister Anika Wells said the $200m would be spent on helping the “next generation” of female athletes enjoy safer sporting facilities.
“Too often women and girls are changing in men‘s bathrooms, wearing hand me down boys uniforms, playing with men’s equipment on poor fields that boys teams wouldn’t train on,” she said.
The program will be available for all sports, but given soccer is the highest participation sport in the country – with around 1.5 million players nationally – it’s anticipated it will need “significant resourcing” in the wake of the Matildas’ impressive campaign.
Professional Footballers Australia co-chief executive Beau Busch said one-off “sugar hits” of funding from landmark events was a really important part of the strategy moving forward, but stressed the funding needed to trickle down.
“What we need to move towards is this sustainable and consistent level of investment from government that can allow us to make continual progress, rather than the sort of one off big investments into major, major, major events,” Mr Busch added.
“But equally what we need to do is ensure this consistent investment so we can build great professional leagues, and a really great grassroots experience as well.”
Australians young and old jumped on the bandwagon over the past month, captured by the story and success of the Matildas – who will play off for third place in the World Cup on Saturday against Sweden.
More than 7m Australians tuned in to the semi-final clash on Seven — a figure that does not include the hundreds of thousands who gathered at stadiums, pubs and live sites across the country.
Only 15 games of the tournament were streamed on free-to-air TV, while the other 49 were accessible only through Optus Sport, with many of those behind a paywall.
The government has stood by its commitment to anti-siphoning, saying free access to important events is important and the scheme needs to be modernised to include online services to “mitigate the risk of events slipping behind paywalls”.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland will on Saturday release three reform models to consider to modernise the anti-siphoning scheme.
“Every Australian deserves the chance to enjoy live and free coverage of these events, no matter where they live or what they earn,” she said.
The government’s preferred model affirms free-to-air broadcasting services as the “safety net” for free access to “nationally important and culturally significant sporting events for all Australians”.
This would prevent streaming and online services, as well as subscription television broadcasters, from acquiring rights to coverage of an event on the list until a free-to-air broadcaster has a right to televise the event.
Ms Rowland said such reforms would “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”.
All three reform options to be floated will include men’s and women’s rugby league, rugby union, cricket and soccer matches that involve a senior Australian representative team being added to the list.
Feedback on the proposals paper will inform the development of legislation to modernise the scheme and list, to be introduced in parliament in the months ahead.