Football Australia presented its five-pillar Legacy '23 plan at Parliament House earlier this week as it works to deliver immediate and long-term benefits from hosting theFIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™.
Capped Westfield Matilda Michelle Heyman, Former Socceroo Jade North and Westfield Junior Matilda Jessika Nash joined Federal Minister for Sport Senator Richard Colbeck, co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of Football Senator Nita Green and Zali Steggall MP and a host of politicians as the first steps were taken towards a truly meaningful legacy for football, the community, and the nation.
The day highlighted the 'once-in-a-lifetime' chance the tournament brings to impact the Australia for the better through participation, community facilities, high performance, tourism & international engagement and leadership & development.
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READ MORE: Football Australia unveils ambitious FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ Legacy plan to Government
On a panel involving players past and present, Football Australia Head of Women's Football, Women's World Cup Legacy and Inclusion Sarah Walsh spoke about the necessity for equitable female facilities to meet surging community demand.
"I was always the only girl on my team growing up, so now I think that we have such a different challenge and opportunity today," she said.
"We are looking at 407,000 new participants coming into the game who are women and girls, so the real problem and an opportunity we have is that they're going to need more places to play.
We have over 2500 pitches and community clubs in Australia, but only one in five community clubs are actually female friendly. It's a real concern and it's a real opportunity that the legacy plan hopes to really correct and capitalise on."
Zali Steggall, a former Olympic athlete herself, echoed Walsh's sentiments and declared her support for Football Australia's target of 50:50 gender balance in participation by 2027.
"I'm really looking forward to the World Cup," she said.
"Just to hear the stories from the girls and the women that will be involved of what this means to them, and the opportunity I hope it drives. It needs to drive change.
"I really applaud Football Australia for its ambition of being 50:50, to getting gender equity and making sure young girls in all our communities have that opportunity of access.
"They need good premises, we need to make sure they have grounds or upgraded toilets and change rooms are there. We need to ensure there is that equitable access so I'm a big champion for that and I will put my voice behind that."
Senator Nita Green emotionally shared how she believes the tournament can empower a new generation of women to lead on and off the pitch - a key element of the Legacy '23 Leadership & Development pillar.
"I'd say what football has done is really show that women can be treated equally, they can be paid equally and they have a right to equal facilities and opportunities" she said.
"The women who played for the Matildas have done such a good job of fighting for that. But now they've shown other women and other teams in sports and codes and even in workplaces, that they deserve the right to equality as well.
The thing that I'm really looking forward to is to see the young girls who are on the sideline and watching it for the first time. I just can't image how amazing it's gonna be to see these young girls sitting on the sidelines and watching their team play at a stadium down the road from their house and know that one day they could be doing exactly the same thing."
"The leadership development pillar doesn't just focus on supporting them through programmes and development, it's also thinking about the system and how we intentionally include them into the game," Walsh added.
"It's a really big project that we're awfully proud of and through legacy we'll be able to bring it to life."
Another aspect of Football Australia's ambitious plan is utilising the tournament to boost tourism and international engagement on a broader level.
"What's really huge about it is the amount of people that will come here and get to see our beautiful country," Green explained.
"Well, this is going to be one of the very first international events that are held after COVID-19 and we know that we can actually do a really good job of showing people great events, places to visit.
"People will come to visit and go to a game but they'll also be traveling throughout Australia, seeing fantastic places. So bringing people here is more than football, it's bringing people to Australia to show off some of the fantastic tourist opportunities that we have as well."
"Sport is one of the things that brings us back together," Richard Colbeck added.
"Our local sporting communities are the things that enable us to come back together as a community and it'll do the same for us in a national sense and in a global sense. So bringing the nations of the world back together to Australia, where we've done a brilliant job of managing COVID-19, in a very safe and secure environment is a huge opportunity.
"It can also help us to engage and work with our Pacific neighbours, help them to develop the game and also grow the game in our region. That's one of the real benefits of this being a cross-confederation bid with New Zealand: that those nations who are working in our local region in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia will also be become a part of this process. This shows the real power of what the 2023 Women's World Cup will bring."
Another central goal of the Legacy '23 plan is to effectively cater for the rapid growth in participation throughout the country.
"This is such an inspiring time for young Australian women," Tanya Plibersek MP said.
"It's inspiring for women who are into their sport, who are already football players, but it goes well beyond that. This is inspiring a new generation of girls to get into football.
"It's about equality. It's about voice. It's about work. It's about their place in the world. I'm so excited about this as a sporting opportunity, but I see it as so much more than that."
The participation pillar also seeks to introduce a national Indigenous program, and enhance youth and CALD football initiatives.
Former Socceroo and Indigenous Australian Jade North shared how he feels the sport is well poised to make significant progress in this area.
"We are a leader in this country, when it comes to sport across the participation rates across in our men's, women's and children," he said.
"I think there's a great stepping stone and what better way than to get behind the World Cup that these inspiring young ladies are going to bring to this country."
Football Australia Chair Chris Nikou and CEO James Johnson also addressed the group formally introduce how football is aiming to capitalise upon this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while playing a key part in the nation's economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have developed a Legacy 23' framework, which is an ambitious plan for our nation to continue to its comeback through football and realising enduring and exciting benefits of hosting this global events," Nikou said.
"Football can help rebuild communities and cover the impacts of COVID, create new optimism and get us back to reality.
"We will be doing our utmost to ensure that Australian football receives the sporting benefits of hosting the World Cup. We believe that the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 presents us with an excellent opportunity to galvanise governments at all levels and has great potential to inspire Australians."
"We want to elevate the women's game here in Australia to a new level through the Women's World Cup as the largest club-based participation sport in this country," Johnson added.
"Football is an inclusive and diverse platform and we represent over 200 nationalities. We believe with our community, we can deliver unique benefits to Australians more than ever before, through our code.
"Legacy 23' is our plan to deliver immediate and long term community benefits and economic impact derived from Australia hosting the Women's World Cup in 2023."