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Australian sports need women off-field too

  • 16 November 2018


On the last Saturday of March in 2017, Bec Goddard made history. As the coach of the Adelaide Crows AFLW team, Goddard led her squad to the inaugural grand final of the women’s competition and the Crows were victorious that day, beating the Brisbane Lions by six points.

Goddard was one of only two female coaches in the AFLW’s first season. Shortly after the end of the second AFLW season, and only six months after winning the Football Woman of the Year award, Goddard and Adelaide had parted ways. Despite leading the team to a premiership in the first season and going close in the second, Adelaide could not, would not, offer Goddard a full-time role with the club.

Less than a week after news of Goddard’s split with the Crows was announced, Michelle Cowan, the head coach of the Fremantle Dockers AFLW team stepped down from her role. As we approach the third season of the AFLW, not one of the ten teams will have a woman at the helm.

This situation is not specific to the AFL. Figures from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) reveal that women make up less than 15% of high performance coaches in Australia. Of the 160 accredited coaches in the Australian team at the Rio Olympics in 2016, only 15 were women. The numbers are hardly better in the boardroom. Of the more than sixty national sporting organisations across the country that receive funding from Sports Australia and the AIS, women make up only 22% of board chairs and 13% of CEOs.

In 2003, Women’s Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricket Board merged to form Cricket Australia. Yet it would take nearly a decade for a woman to be appointed to the Cricket Australia board with Jacquie Hay making history in 2012. No woman has ever served as Chair or CEO of Cricket Australia. Raelene Castle was appointed CEO of Rugby Australia in 2017, the first woman in the role. There are currently two women on the board of Rugby Australia. Soccer fares no better, with only one woman currently on the FFA Board.

A new program from Sports Australia and the AIS is attempting to address this disparity. The AIS Talent Program, launched last week, is open to sports executives and high performance coaches and according to Sports Australia CEO Kate Palmer, ‘it will help identify, develop, retain and progress talent that