The league points totals of teams in the men’s A-League and women’s W-League will be combined to create a new annual Club Championship title.
Three new teams are also being added to the W-League before 2023 – Wellington Phoenix, Central Coast Mariners and Western United FC.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the New Zealand-based Wellington Phoenix will be the first to join the league, taking the competition to 10 teams. The plan is to expand to 12 teams ahead of the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.
APL said the timetable for the addition of the new teams will be announced in the coming weeks.
Danny Townsend, managing director of APL, announced the changes, saying: “This is just the beginning of a sustained investment programme in women’s football – we announced unbundling just eight months ago, and are already bringing more games, more players, better broadcast, improved employment conditions and enhanced footballing pathways.
“We want to unleash football’s potential in Australia and this is a significant step forward in delivering the future that the game deserves.”
APL took over the running of Australia’s domestic football leagues at the start of this year, separating them from national federation Football Australia.
The league body announced a couple of other initiatives including a tweak for the W-League Finals Series format to add an extra, ‘Preliminary Final’ match.
APL is also finalising a long-term collective bargaining pay agreement with Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) that it said will “drive up standards across the game and provide for an immediate and significant investment by the clubs in their players”.
Kate Gill, co-CEO of PFA, commented on the changes to the women’s game, saying: “The expansion of the competition is an important step forward and illustrates the confidence in the women’s game and the solid foundations that have been built.
“The players have been vocal advocates for the growth of the competition and positively APL’s women’s football strategy will not only provide additional employment opportunities and match minutes for our talented players but delivers a healthy boost to the W-League in the lead up to the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023.”
Australia is co-hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup with New Zealand. The tournament is expected to be a milestone for women’s football in the country.
Football Australia commercial chief Tom Rischbieth told SportBusiness this week that the federation plans to capitalise on the tournament with a legacy plan that is targeting, among other things, a 50:50 participation rate in football across men and women by 2027, development of women’s grassroots facilities, and educational programmes for female leaders in sport.
Although FA and APL split earlier this year, they are still working together on various strategic projects.
Commenting on the APL announcements, Sarah Walsh, head of women’s football at FA, said: “Women and girls now have more choice than ever when it comes to selecting a sport to play in Australia. It’s imperative that football continues to progress and evolve when it comes to providing greater access and opportunity for women and girls in football…
“With the W-League entering its 14th season, and a commitment to broader expansion of the league, I am confident that we are taking the right steps forward as a game to ensure that football is the number one sport of choice for women and girls as we strive for 50:50 gender balance by 2027.”