On 15 June 2016, the AFL made the historic announcement that eight clubs would compete in the inaugural season of the women’s national league in 2017.
During February and March next year, Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will participate in six home-and-away rounds, with the top four playing two semi-finals and a Grand Final. The other five AFL clubs who applied for licences, Geelong, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast, have been granted provisional licences to be part of an expanded women's league in 2018.
Melbourne Football Club women's football manager Debbie Lee recently explained to the ABC that the launch of the women’s league presents an opportunity for engagement with supporters and advanced policy development, with some of the traditions and ideals formed in the men’s game not being "as progressive as it should be”.
In terms of the development of policies and procedures for the competition and its competing clubs, there are a number of considerations for the AFL and the Women's Football Advisory Group. These include the particulars of the playing contracts and wages, stadium arrangements (including availability and dimensions), broadcasting deals, playing apparel, merchandising, third-party sponsorships and a salary cap.
Additionally, the AFL have committed to introducing a father-daughter rule for the daughters of former AFL players, with the potential that this could be expanded to include uncles and grandfathers, and the eligibility requirements are currently being debated.
A key policy will be the recruitment and retention of players, and the manner in which this will occur. Due to the short-duration of the season and the fact that the competition is in a development phase, the wages and sponsorships are likely to be relatively low initially. Therefore, if players are forced to relocate through a draft system, a concern is whether they will be fairly compensated for a potential move.
Daisy Pearce, the Melbourne Football Club captain, explained that, whilst players will likely “be prepared to relocate to play at a club” because the “appetite to want to play sport at a really high level is definitely there”, the system implemented hopefully won’t require players to “move against their will”.
Whilst major discussions continue regarding the functionality of the competition, and the various policies and procedures that will govern its operation, the implementation of the women’s national league is an important step for the growth of the game, and equality for its participants.
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