‘Massive’: Fans applaud historic day for Australian rules football

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‘Massive’: Fans applaud historic day for Australian rules football

The four AFL clubs absent from the AFLW competition will field teams from the season after next.

The league announced that Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney had been granted licenses to play in the women’s competition’s 2022-23 season.

All four clubs submitted applications to the AFL detailing their credentials for fielding women’s teams, focusing on corporate support, investment, facilities and resourcing. All four were approved.

Heralded as a historic day for Australian rules football, Thursday’s announcement means that the women’s competition will soon field 18 teams – the same number as the men’s.

The move comes after the competition was expanded from eight teams to 10 in 2019 before once again growing to 14 sides for 2020.

“To accelerate the growth of the NAB AFLW competition and to allow for greater opportunities for AFLW players, it is paramount that we engage all 18 AFL clubs and their supporter bases,” said AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.

“It has been often said that clubs haven’t felt whole if they didn’t have an AFLW team, and I am proud to say that the NAB AFL women’s competition will now be complete with the addition of the new four clubs.”

McLachlan said that the expansion meant that 540 AFLW footballers would play across the 18 clubs from 2022, making the competition the largest employer of female athletes in Australia.

More than 600,000 women and girls nationwide play Australian rules football at some level.

Nicole Livingstone, the AFL’s general manager of women’s football, added: “Our primary objective is to provide women and girls with an equal opportunity to play elite Australian football and to increase the female participation and interest in our game.”

“As we welcome four new clubs to the competition, we will continue to work with the AFLW players, the AFLPA and the clubs over the coming years to make AFLW the sport of choice for women and create legitimate career opportunities for women within our game.”

AFLW membership records were broken for a fifth consecutive year in 2021, with 24,423 people choosing to become paid members of AFLW clubs for the most recent season.

The AFLW’s TV viewership records for the 2021 season also eclipsed those for the season prior – by 35 per cent – while 80 per cent of AFL sponsors chose to invest in the women’s game in 2021.

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