The champion team we don't deserve: Why aren't YOU supporting our W-League side?
What if I told you that a Melbourne City FC team had won three out of the last four toilet seats, including going on an unbeaten run for a season and a half, and had built a resilient culture which enables us to win the championship from any position in finals, yet the team gets an average of just 700 people at their games?
What if I told you that we'd signed some of the best midfielders in the world, as well as half of the Australian national team - while they were in their peak - and played some of the most exciting, possession-based, expansive and attacking football that the league had ever seen, yet they've never experienced even a fraction of the active support that their male counterparts receive without question?
What if I told you that's exactly what's happening right now and that the lack of support and interest shown for our women's team reflects poorly on us as supporters of the club?
Since the inception of our women’s team in 2015, we have proven ourselves to be by far the strongest side in the competition’s history. Beginning with an undefeated season and the Premiership/Championship double, we dragged the league kicking and screaming towards the level of professionalism the players - professional athletes - deserve.
Genuinely world-class players like Jess Fishlock and Kim Little were the backbone of a side that won all 12 regular-season games in our inaugural campaign, scoring goals for fun throughout.
In our first season, we scored on average over THREE goals a game and went on to romp Sydney FC 4-1 in the Grand Final, bringing us our first ever senior trophy. Throughout this season, however, we averaged just 600 attendees.
Even in our matches at AAMI Park (all of which, except one, being double-headers), we averaged 2670 attendees.
Our only solo game at AAMI Park for the women’s team was on Friday 16th November 2018 at 7:30 pm. Not only was this a prime slot to have fans attend, but it was a Melbourne Derby against a Victory team who was on the up. Disappointingly, we only managed to get 1619 fans through the gates, the lowest crowd of ANY women’s match we’ve played at AAMI Park. None of these crowds come even close to the purported “break-even” number of bums on seats the club needs in order to avoid reporting a financial loss for hosting the game.
It goes beyond simple attendance at games when it comes to the level of interest and support our women’s team receives from fans.
Since the beginning of pre-season, Talking City has been running articles on player announcements, previews and match reports for both our men's and women's team, because they both deserve the exact same level of coverage.
The number of views for signing announcements for the men's team grossly outweighs that of the women's team. Emma Checker (38 views), Emily van Egmond (47 views) and Ellie Carpenter (a disgraceful 10 views for a player of her calibre) are all Matildas and are world-class players in the women’s game.
Probably the most disheartening fact of all, our hugely detailed W-League season preview, which comfortably contained more information on our women's team in one place than any other media outlet, was seen just 34 times.
Excluding our home grand final against Sydney FC, in none of our W-League home matches, whether we're considering solo games or double-headers, have we ever had a reasonable active support presence.
In the final championship match of our three-peat, as Jodie Taylor pokes home to secure a 2-0 win, a handful of fans are seen in the corner celebrating what is a never-before-produced feat...
Anecdotally, it seems like a reasonably sized proportion of our crowds at ABD Stadium this year have been families with young girls coming to see their Matildas heroes play.
Not once have we had flags, a trumpet, active fans chanting behind the goals or any significant atmosphere, though we do understand there is an organised effort being made for this Sunday's potentially historic Melbourne Derby clash.
A small finger can be pointed at the club for not playing “So Happy Together” prior to games to make it feel like we’re all part of the same club, but that’s no excuse for fans not turning up to support.
For years we’ve clamoured for attractive, possession-based football with elite level players, but now that we've got all of that in spades, a large majority of our fan base seems disinterested.
It’s even more unusual when you consider that the Matildas were named Australia’s most loved team in 2019 and half of that squad make up our starting XI.
Frustratingly with the upcoming exodus of elite Australian players to Europe, such as Steph Catley who will likely sign for Arsenal at the end of the W-League season, this may be the last year for fans to catch our truly elite football team performing at a level above the rest of the competition with some of the world’s best players.
With a Melbourne Derby coming up, especially given that we’re on an unbeaten run and can, in theory, win the league by winning this game (if the Sydney Derby ends in a draw), one would hope that members of City Terrace would make a concerted effort to turn up for the final two games in Victoria this year, finally bringing the colour and noise to support our girls on the way to what feels like a momentous season.