It’s October! Yay, I love October. It’s up there with the best months of the year.
For starters, it’s a “ber”. Bers are great. Once you get into the bers you know three things – winter is over, Christmas isn’t far away, and Liverpool have replaced their manager.
October is unique amongst the bers in two big ways – one good and one bad. The bad part of October is Halloween. Kids these days have no appreciation of history. They all want something for nothing. When I tell trick or treaters they can have a chocolate bar for every member of Roma’s 1982/83 scudetto winning team they can name, they just look at me like I’m some kind of idiot. Unbelievable!
This is clearly a serious blot in October’s copybook, but it’s more than made up for by the fact that October also signifies the start of the best football league in New Zealand – the ASB Women’s League.
The ASB Women’s League is truly wonderful with only one proviso – it’s over far too quickly. The regular season is only seven short weeks long. Seven weeks! To illustrate how inadequate this is, I submit to you a list I have compiled of some other things that only last seven weeks:
- The standard term of an Australian Prime Minister.
- Christmas Day at your in-laws.
- Any single Hobbit movie.
- The average interval my last Italian car survived between important things falling off.
I’m sure you agree this is not long enough for a serious football league. And our female footballers, whose world ranking is 120 places higher than the blokes (Football Ferns vs All Whites), deserve a serious national football league.
Are we committed to equality? I hope so because if we’re not then 1950 called and it wants its social order back. And if we are, the ASB Women’s League season should be the same length as the ASB Premiership season.
I may be a pasty white liberal all up in your grill on this when, as someone involved in the game at a much deeper level than a do-gooder like me, you probably know what the game needs and this might not be priority one. But perceptions matter. When we have an unequal structure it sends a message that female footballers are not as valued as males. Why should that be?
New Zealand Football’s National Competitions Review report, released last month, clearly spelled out that the ‘National League’ should be seen holistically as encompassing men, women and youth (presumably youth means young men). However when it comes to recommending a pathway forward, developing the women’s game comes across as a bit of an afterthought.
Male youth appear to be preferred to senior women given a ‘youth framework’ is to be rolled out between 2015 and 2018 – it’s unclear if that involves female youth. A fully equal women’s national league is only envisioned in the ‘preferred outcome’ to be implemented in 2018/19. Apparently at that point the ASB Women’s League could jump straight from 8 federations playing each other once to ten franchises and clubs playing each other three times – provided the entire structure is ‘sustainable’.
What are the realistic prospects of that threshold being met though? Sustainability is something the report itself takes pains to concede New Zealand hasn’t seen in the game since 1970.
The report cites, in the section titled ‘Why has it never really worked?’, a view that “the very best football and footballers are overseas” as one of the primary excuses for past failures. This may be true but it does undersell the fact that we have Football Ferns playing in the National Women’s League currently who, given they play for a top 20 ranked nation, are amongst the best players in the world. What appears to be lacking is any sort of marketing of that fact – for whatever reason.
The ASB Women’s League has been positively evolving as it should. We’ve gone from a youth league organised into conferences to a truly national league with everyone playing everyone once and no restrictions on who’s eligible.
Next step – home and away. Step after that – TELEVISED GAMES!!! Next step after that – flying cars, hoverboards, flux capacitors and all the other things we’re meant to have in 2015.
Anything else would be selling our outstanding female footballers short of what they deserve.
Categories: NZ Women's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.