Two weeks ago the AFL announced the inaugural teams for the Women’s AFL competition slated to start next year. It was the culmination of a very long road to bring a women’s competition to be a part of arguably Australia’s largest and most commercial sporting code. Women in the AFL were brought into focus that week for other reasons as well unfortunately, but that is not the focus of this article.
Rather I want to talk about content and why I think the Women’s AFL will far exceed the expectations of even those who have brought it into being. Since sport first became broadcast, commercialised, and made into entertainment, women have been a huge component of the audience consuming it. From memberships to attendance, to watching it at home or listening on the radio, women have made up a far larger portion of the fan base than you might expect.
Despite this audience they have been forced to consume a product in which they were much of the time denied a voice. As we all know people connect with stories they can relate to and that happens when the stories are told by faces and voices they recognise i.e. their own. The AFL like most other sport entertainment in Australia has long been home to white men talking about the interests of other white men.
Hence my excitement; because already it can be seen that the addition of a women’s league is going to drive the addition of women into all aspects of the AFL landscape; and the broader sport landscape beyond that. Already there is a talent war underway for the best and brightest football talent, and this diversity can only be positive within these clubs. As significant is the fact that commercial partners are starting to catch on. I have no doubt that an increased number of women talking about, commentating on and participating in will drive better numbers all around for the AFL. Incidental evidence would already seem to confirm as much, as seen when Sarah Jones was handed the reins on Fox Footy’s Thursday night broadcast last week.
As I said at the top this isn’t a piece on gender equity – this is a piece on commercial reality. And the simple reality is that the more of these voices that are brought in from the fringe (where they have been forced by the status quo no doubt) will drive a beneficial result. More voices = more stories, more stories = more audiences, more audiences = improved sponsorship/advertising return.
Here at Fuse we are all about connecting with audiences through content, so I’m incredibly excited to think of all the new content, and audiences that will connect throughout the next stage of footballs evolution. As per my title there is about to be a gold rush in sport not seen in a long time, all that remains to be seen is who will jump in first and reap the rewards.