AFLW here to stay despite AFL cost cutting
The AFL says the AFLW competition is one of the key drivers of growth and recovery post-coronavirus rather than a $22.4 million expense that should be abandoned next year.
The AFL remains fiercely committed to its women's competition despite NRL clubs getting cold feet on NRLW teams and massive cost-cutting across the AFL industry.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan will back his legacy project to the hilt given he says the league's AFLW competition is one of the few areas of massive growth and commercial opportunity in the next decade.
He sees it as a generational play similar to the expansion clubs that will allow the AFL to grow its support base across the community in a time when it will need to continue growing its revenue.
Women accounted for 34 per cent of total participation in 2019, with the total number of women's teams growing 16 per cent to 2609 sides.
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The AFL told the Herald Sun: "Both our Chairman and CEO have been clear that we went into this crisis with 18 AFL clubs and 14 AFLW teams and that we will come out the other side with 18 clubs and 14 AFLW teams".
A league that will need to pay off up to $600 million in the next decade believes the women's game and what it represents will underpin growth in membership, ticket sales, sponsorship and government infrastructure spending.
The league was set to spend $22.4 million on its competition in 2020 - up from $16.4 million in 2019 - with no broadcast revenue or ticket sales for the competition so far.
But companies including BHP and Chemist Warehouse have specifically invested in women's football and its pathways given the inclusive message of female sport.
AFL commission boss Richard Goyder admitted as the league recorded a $27.9 million profit that the men's competition was strong "but the desire of women and girls to be part of our game at every level drives our growth."
NRL's Sydney Roosters will not take part in next year's NRLW league, with some alarmist reports AFL clubs are considering walking away from their teams given the costs involved.
But while clubs could prune their VFLW sides which cost up to $400,000 to run, AFL powerbrokers McLachlan and Goyder see AFLW as one of the key players in the post-coronavirus resurgence.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has backed the women's game as the biggest potential area for growth in the AFL.
"It has absolutely made football so much money over the last three years. Seriously, you would not know how much money. It's going to be an absolute revolution for our game. It's the next stage," he said last month.
"Women are not being carried along by the AFL. Quite the opposite. The are propelling this game to new heights. Memberships everywhere are up, Collingwood now is 50/50 memberships with women. You will never get a dollar of government money for any infrastructure build unless you have got female sports involved."