The Matilda effect: Female participation in football goes through the roof

Some of St Marys FC’s female players.
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While sports like AFL are sadly declining in the local area, the same can’t be said for football which continues to go from strength to strength.

Off the back of the Matildas’ success, last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup and the upcoming Paris Olympic Games, Football NSW is experiencing a record level of player registrations ahead of the 2024 football season.

At the end of February, Football NSW already had over 25,000 more player registrations than at the same time last year. Female player registrations enjoyed a year-on-year increase of 23 per cent, while 5-12-year-old player registrations have gone on up 27 per cent across the state.

The 2024 registration increase comes off the back of a 34 per cent total increase in 2023/24 summer football numbers, with the momentum from last year’s Women’s World Cup showing no signs of slowing down.

Locally, the game is thriving as well with St Marys Football Club – one of the oldest clubs in the Nepean Football Association – experiencing a 60 per cent increase in player registrations and an eye-watering 173 per cent increase in female player registrations as of March 17.

Speaking with the Weekender, Female Football Coordinator at St Marys FC Rebecca Pressick said her club wanted to be the home of female football in the area.

“To be honest, it’s just using that Matilda effect,” she admitted.

“We knew a lot of girls were interested in playing. I was getting a lot of enquiries about girls coming across to play, so we made the decision to put incentives in place to make us the home club choice in the area.”

In a clever way to increase their numbers, St Marys FC offered all new female players to their club a 50 per cent discount on registrations.

“I knew every club would be trying to capture these players, so we made the decision to offer half price registration for all new female players to our club,” Pressick said.

“It’s a special discount to encourage them to come to our club instead of our neighbouring clubs and that’s had a profound effect.”

And the special promotion seems to have worked a treat, with St Marys FC going from two female teams last season to six.

“This year we have two all-age ladies’ teams representing St Marys and four all-girl teams (U15 girls, U14 girls, U12 girls and U11 girls),” Pressick said.

“We’ve seen players switch from other football clubs because not all clubs have all-female teams like we do.

“Others are brand-new to football and team sport, while some have switched from other codes.”

Along with the stunning boost in numbers, which also includes male registrations going up 25 per cent, St Marys FC is leading the way in the front office too – appointing their first-ever female President in Nicole Collins.

“Nicole is our first female president and started the role this season” Pressick said.

“Half of our committee is female and three quarters of the executive committee is female too.”

Football NSW CEO, John Tsatsimas, said he was “thrilled” to see tens of thousands of new players registering at clubs like St Marys FC.

“Female players are up over 20 per cent year-to-date and have already surpassed our previous record with registrations continuing to come through,” he said.

“To ensure we can sustain such growth, it is vitally important that funding at all levels of Government is directed towards improving existing venues and developing new fields so that everyone has the opportunity to play football.”

The season kicks off next month.

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