SYDNEY, Aug 20 (Reuters) – England Vs Spain are gearing up for an exciting showdown in the Women’s World Cup this Sunday, marking the tournament’s end with a flourish of television viewership and sparking greater hopes for women’s soccer to shine even brighter.
Hosted by Australia and New Zealand, this ninth edition of the global showcase was a trailblazer, being the first to grace the southern hemisphere and smashing attendance records in the process. While local interest tapered following Australia’s semi-final exit, an estimated two million fans are anticipated to pour into Sydney Stadium at 8 PM (1000 GMT) on Sunday, ready to experience the grand finale.
Our local broadcaster, Seven Network, captured the attention of 7.13 million viewers during Australia’s triumphant semi-final clash with England on Wednesday. This milestone became a historic high marked by the research company Oztam since their inception in 2001.
Matildas’ matches have been hot tickets, selling out months before kickoff, and organizers are gearing up for an average crowd of over 30,000 after all 64 matches have been played.
Reflecting on the last Women’s World Cup in France four years ago, more than 1.1 million people tuned in, forming an enthusiastic average crowd of 21,756 across the 52 matches. In New Zealand, where the team exited during the group stage, interest took a backseat.
FIFA doled out thousands of tickets, yet fewer than 7,000 spectators attended a few games, despite the White Ferns marking a remarkable football attendance record in their country.
Financial planning became a focal point. Following Australia’s 2-0 loss to Sweden in the third-place playoff on Saturday, each Australian player will earn $165,000 in prize money, a whopping 300 times more than the A$750 ($480) they garnered for reaching the quarter-finals back in 2015.
Sam Kerr, a standout player for the Matildas, emphasized after Wednesday’s triumph over England that the game requires more resources.
“We need funding for our development; we need support at the grassroots level,” she stated.
“Money is essential, you see, we need it across the board.”
The remarkable journey of the Matildas in the World Cup has been aimed at fostering greater backing for women’s football in Australia, where sports like rugby and Aussie rules dominate the landscape. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledged $200 million in support of women’s football after the Matildas’ remarkable semi-final success on Saturday.
Albanese shared that these funds would contribute towards enhancing sports facilities for women and girls, with a significant portion directed toward football’s development.
Moreover, the government is actively pushing for women’s sports events to be available on free-to-air TV, addressing concerns over accessibility due to paywalls. The challenges in women’s football continue as England and Spain vie for their maiden World Cup title in Sydney on Sunday.
Women were once excluded from official spaces in English sports arenas until the 1970s, lagging behind in both enthusiasm and financial backing. However, that narrative shifted when the Lionesses clinched the European Championship last year.
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On a separate note, the Spanish national team has faced internal turmoil between coach Jorge Vilda and the Spanish Football Federation, resulting in the absence of some key players from the tournament.
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