If you’re at a local football field next weekend, particularly one featuring a senior men’s NPL match or a women’s NPL game, you may notice the colour purple close to the grass.

The FFA certainly hopes you do. It will be the colour of many of the players’ bootlaces, worn as part of the Purple Laces round.

The feature round is part of Female Football Week (FFW), launched nationwide yesterday in Melbourne by FFA CEO David Gallop with spokepersons Lucy Turnbull, Matilda and current Young Australian of the Year Sam Kerr, and Football United’s Assmaah Helal.

Each A-League & W-League club and member federation will be holding events throughout FFW, which runs from Friday 2 to Sunday 11 March, including International Women’s Day events on Thursday 8 March.

FFV Program Development Coordinator Women and Girls, Helen Tyrikos told Neos Kosmos that FFW is a celebration of the continued growth in participation of women in football. She says, “It gives us the opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate them and the important role they continue to play in football both on and off the pitch at all levels, whether they’re referees, coaches, players, board members, or committee members.

“And it provides an in-your-face platform for discussion on how we can continue to drive the participation of women in football. It forces clubs to look at questions such as, ‘do we have gender balance?’, ‘Are we getting women involved?’ I mean, it’s a buzzword. Government wants it, everyone wants it.”

It is also a chance to reflect on the immense achievement of our Matildas, who are the most successful national team that Australia has ever produced.

Gallop said, “Female participation in structured football has increased by almost 10 per cent over the past 12 months with over 139,000 girls, and women playing the game regularly, nationally. This growth has been due to the strong focus on growing MiniRoos For Girls Club & Kick-Off football as well as the outstanding success of the Matildas on the world stage.”

Tyrikos believes the international success of the Matildas provides young players with an aspirational path.

“The girls can see there’s an actual path there; you can actually play for your country.”

With the Matildas continuing to shine on the international stage, the spotlight in club land this week turns to games closer to home.

The FFV is encouraging clubs to participate in FFW by becoming involved in hosting events that promote female football players in their community and around their club.

Clubs can find out about examples of these events and register the event with FFW. Once registered, FFV send the clubs an FFW promotional pack with Matildas’ scarves as prize packs, purple water bottles and other items, that can be distributed to girls at the events.

Almost 16,000 girls and women participated in club football in Victoria in 2017, but there is still a significant proportion (46 per cent) of clubs who haven’t entered women’s teams in FFV-run competitions. Retaining women players from year to year is an ongoing issue that clubs have to address.

The FFV is using FFW to promote and encourage the development of women coaches, referees, club administrators, and board members to help develop club environments that can enhance players’ satisfaction with club football.

Tyrikos says, “What we have on offer for clubs in celebration of FFW is a heap of subsidised training courses for board members, for club administrators, for referees and for coaches. We are offering 20 community coaching courses, five sponsored C-Licence courses, two sponsored B-Licence courses and an A-Licence. Applicants can put in an expression of interest on the FFV website. A panel will vote on who they want to support and offer them the sponsorship. And hopefully over the next two to three years we can start properly developing and supporting women in all those roles.”

Tyrikos was formerly general manager at Heidelberg United FC and has been in her FFW role since the middle of last year.

She says, “When clubs ring me and ask for FFV to help them with female participation, I ask them three questions: one, how many women are on your committee, not just a canteen manager, but actively making decisions about the club day-to-day, about the policies, the vision, and strategy? If they tell me they don’t have any, then I ask them to select one person to put on this board training course. If we don’t actively include women, then the decisions being made aren’t gender-balanced.
“Two, I ask them how many of their coaches know how to coach girls? And three, I ask how are you willing to prioritise your facilities for your girls?”
When asked if Greek-based clubs lagged behind in these areas of women’s participation, Tyrikos says, “no, not at all. Greek women I find very active – they’ve got voices. We’re also an older migrant group and have integrated pretty well at administration levels across the club. Maybe not so much in coaching positions, but definitely as players and as administrators. We’re finding the newer migrant communities are struggling with our expectation of them to include women. But they’ll assimilate eventually. I think the Greek clubs are doing a great job.”

For further information on events and courses for Female Football Week, and a list of fixtures, go to ffv.org.au/ffw