AFL

Delay to women's team bid part of grander AFL plan

The AFL's general manager of game and market development, Simon Lethlean.
The AFL's general manager of game and market development, Simon Lethlean. Photo: Ken Irwin

The AFL's move to postpone the tender process for clubs wanting a team in the code-changing women's league has surprised industry chiefs.

However, the delay has almost certainly been timed around the eve-of-season AFL Commission meeting where it is expected the new competition structure will be settled 12 months before kick-off. 

Interested AFL clubs were preparing for a pitch deadline in January to win one of the limited women's team licenses the league is set to offer.

There may be as few as six women's teams in year one of what's expected to be a televised, national competition, which suggests some AFL clubs will be disappointed not to participate from the outset.

But the application date has been put back to March in a delay that has left several club chiefs somewhat bemused given the planning required for such an undertaking in a relatively short amount of time.

Club CEOs were advised the tender process was being delayed by the AFL in a memo from league executive Simon Lethlean, the league's general manager of game and market development, which takes in women's football.

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"The work at the moment is centred around ID-ing [female player] talent, and looking at the number of teams, and potential location of teams," Lethlean told Fairfax Media.

"We expect we're going to be in a position to provide more detail in coming months."

This week a surprise pitch for a women's team in the new AFL competition came out of Tasmania.

The push was telegraphed by Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale on Tuesday and proposed that 'Tasmania' feature in the team name, that games should be played in the north and south of Tasmania and that Tasmanian talent should be a strong component of the team.

A spokesperson from the Tasmanian Greens told Fairfax Media that the idea of a Tasmanian women's team had been floated with "senior people within the AFL" and received "an encouraging response".

The mere suggestion of Tasmania having a women's team came as a surprise to those anticipating that the AFL's women's competition would — at least initially — be contested between existing AFL clubs.

Fairfax has reported there may initially be just four licences for women's teams available for Victorian teams to effectively bid for.

As the clubs who have played the only AFL-sanctioned women's matches to date, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs are clear frontrunners as foundation teams.

There is, however, only one guaranteed opportunity for a women's curtain-raiser between those clubs this season given the clubs are scheduled to meet just once.

The AFL is genuinely committed, however, to giving women's football an unprecedented profile boost via other means this year, mooting a platform during the annual finals series.

Other clubs known to be interested in having a women's team are Collingwood, St Kilda, Carlton, Essendon, Richmond, Geelong, Brisbane Lions, West Coast and Fremantle.

Meanwhile, the AFL Players Association's board, led by Matthew Pavlich, has indicated it supports female footballers being included in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

The AFLPA's discussions with a female player steering committee about the prospect of formally representing them in the first instance, and key issues such as pay, continue.