It was a joy to attend the first final played by Geelong’s AFLW team on Saturday.

While the result didn’t go our way, the real joy was in the talent and tenacity of the players, the team’s exponential success in 2022, and the competition’s growth since its inception in 2017.

AFL powerbrokers in attendance at the pre-game function was testament to the commitment the league has to the AFLW. As the fan base and audience grows, so does the appreciation of the ability for women’s sport to be a valuable commercial commodity.

This value can be measured many ways, including to inspire females to start or keep playing sport.

A national survey by the Australian Sports Commission showed that two thirds of males participate in sports-related activities compared to just over half of females. Part of this disparity could be put down to societal pressures, poor infrastructure and lack of financial support. 

Governments of all persuasion are playing catch-up to ensure sporting facilities including change rooms are adequate to meet the demand for female sports.

However, the gender pay gap requires more attention. According to recent figures from the ABS, the average annual income for male athletes is $67,652 while women earn $42,900.

While AFLW players received a significant pay boost in 2022 rising 94% to $46,280, the average AFL player wage in 2022 was $372,225.

While AFLW is a fledging competition, it highlights a key fact. Men’s AFL has been established, promoted and supported for a long time helping it to grow the professionalism, administration, broadcast deals and audience. This history is highlighted with the record $4.5 billion AFL broadcast deal that will most certainly assist the development of the AFLW.

However, one of the biggest stories regarding woman’s sport sponsorship recently was the fracas between Netball Australia, the Australian Diamonds and Hancock Prospecting.

The level of negative emotion and false assumptions that followed this issue was alarming. What it highlighted was the disparity in knowledge of and financial support for an elite, world class female sporting team.

In 2021, AusPlay data showed that netball remains the leading team sport for women and girls in Australia. Netball had 601,165 participants aged 15 or over and 318,243 participants aged under 14. Netball is significantly connected and loved by local communities, none more so than in Geelong.

What is surprising to me is that there is even a question about commercial benefit of women’s sport and more so, netball in this country.

Women are key decision makers when it comes to purchasing for households. Market researchers have long argued that investing in women’s sports can help brands to connect with and build a lasting loyalty with customers. Female athletes are also finding their voices, calling for change and have increasing influence on issues.

As corporates look to have cut through to markets and explore environmental, social, and governance principles, women’s sport offers a compelling commercial and community impact opportunity that should be part of a new game for future investment.

Jennifer Cromarty

CEO, Committee for Geelong

Image Creator: JOHN DAVIDSON | Credit: AAPIMAGE