Erin Phillips in action. (Picture: Adelaide FC)

With the birth of the AFLW competition in 2017, local women's footy has continued to boom significantly ever since.

In 2010, the AFL launched a review into women’s football in Australia, this review was conducted in order to assess what the reach of women’s football was throughout grassroots clubs in the country.

The review concluded that 80,000 women played in local leagues and that a national competition was required to be developed in order to grow women’s participation for football. The initial starting date for this league was set at 2020 by the AFL.

In the coming years, several exhibition matches between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne were played as curtain raisers at the MCG.

The final exhibition match between the two being played at Whitten Oval in 2016, garnered 746,000 viewers on average, showing that there was a demand for the women’s game.

Due to the success of those exhibition matches, the starting date for the league was moved forward, and in September 2016, the AFLW was officially formed.

But coming up to the competitions fifth season, how has the impact of having a national competition affected grassroots participation levels?

Prior to the announcement of the league in 2016, 2015’s participation numbers sat at 318,880 female participants and 629 dedicated female football teams nationally. These numbers made up 25 per cent of the overall participation numbers.

Grassroots numbers in 2016 made a massive increase, with the AFL citing that the establishment of the AFL Women’s league was the reason behind the increase in numbers. 

Female participation rose 19 per cent to take the overall number to 380,041, the dedicated female football teams also rose an enormous 56 per cent to total them to 983. After 2016 females accounted for 27per cent of participants, marking an increase on all fronts.

After the debut season of AFLW in 2017, which saw the overall game attendance reach 198,020, local numbers once again climbed to new heights of which the women’s game hadn’t seen before.

A further increase of last year’s number saw the overall participation number come to 463,364, a 144,484 increase from two seasons previous. Dedicated teams also rose alongside participation numbers, with 1,690 total teams participating locally in 2017. A 70 per cent increase of the season before. 

The increase of participation levels followed in 2018, although overall attendance for the AFLW dropped to 174,012. 

Female football now almost made one third of all active grassroots footballers, with 530,166 footballers increasing by 14.42per cent from the previous year’s figures. Dedicated teams also increased by 35 per cent, bringing the overall total to 2281.

At the conclusion of the 2018 season, the AFLW entered an expansion period, with 6 clubs to be added into the competition over the following two seasons.

Geelong, Gold Coast, West Coast, Richmond, St Kilda, and North Melbourne all had successful bids, further growing the game within the country and theoretically opening women’s football to more markets, although there is no current evidence to suggest the impact of the expansion.

After the most successful AFLW season to date, where the Grand Final between Adelaide and Carlton was contested in front of 53,034 fans at the Adelaide Oval, which at the time was the biggest crowd for any dedicated women’s sporting event in Australian history. 

Participation rates once again increased from the previous year, with 586,422 footballers participating overall. 

With 2020’s figures yet to be released by the AFL, the progressive growth of women’s grassroots football can only be measured up to 2019, however, the impact shown is evident. 

From prior to the AFLW was announced in 2015 to the end of the 2019 season, women’s participants have risen by 267,542 overall and comparing the numbers overall from when the review was conducted in 2010, numbers have risen by 506,422.

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1 thought on “Women’s footy numbers continue to rise

  1. Have to make a comment on the situation prior to the AFLW launch season.
    One state has had initial extraordinary growth in Womens Footy which has never been recognised generally in the footy world.
    However Gil Mclachlan to his credit spotted it and while not the main reason for the AFLW formation it did assist his thinking.
    We are of course talking about QLD and Gil commented he did not want to lose all of those girls who had taken up the game.
    Currently AFLQ Womens participation is sitting at about 48% of total AFL participation numbers up there. Yes thats right and Gils hunch has paid off in spades.
    This is by far the highest rate in the Country and is a huge plus for the AFLQ Admin.
    Pls note I reside in WA and have no links at all to any footy in QLD.

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