Former Australia netball captain Liz Ellis has blasted the AFL for being money-driven and showing a lack of respect for women’s football.
The AFL is considering shortening the home-and-away season of the popular women’s competition to just six matches per side, despite adding two new clubs in 2019, prompting a fierce backlash.
Many of the competition’s stars have already spoken out about the issue, with Melbourne star Daisy Pearce accusing the AFL of treating AFLW as a “gimmicky tournament”.
And Ellis pulled no punches in a damning assessment of the AFL’s administration of the women’s league, saying it was “about money for the AFL”.
“I will drop a little truth bomb here,” Ellis said on the Nine Network on Sunday.
“I don’t think the AFL’s women’s competition is an elite competition yet.
“They have got some gun athletes in there but they’ve also got athletes that they have recruited from other sports and they have got women who haven’t played a lot of footy … and it shows.
“Make no mistake … the AFL women is about money for the AFL.
“If the AFL wants that money and most of the decisions that the AFL makes are about money … they’ve got to show respect to the women’s game.
“The women’s game is not an elite competition yet. It’s probably a good 10-15 years until you get to that when you get the next generation of women who are inspired now as little girls to take up the game and play all the way through.
“Then you will get an awesome competition.”
"Show the game some respect!"
— Sports Sunday (@SportsSunday) August 5, 2018
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has rejected claims a shorter season would be “gimmicky”.
“The [FIFA] World Cup goes for four weeks. I don’t think anyone’s calling that Mickey Mouse,” he said on 3AW Radio.
Those comments only served to fire up Ellis even more.
“Gillon McLachlan, comparing it to a four-week competition, comparing it to the World Cup, [he] needs to pull his head in,” she said.
“That was an appalling thing to say. It shows a distinct lack of respect for the game and it shows a lack of respect for the women who are involved in football.
“Let me give them a piece of advice … show the game respect and have two [more] rounds and you will eventually get a women’s competition that is fantastic.”
Pearce outlines a plan for the future
Speaking on AFL Gameday on Sunday, Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce said the season should start on January 5, allowing time for nine home-and-away matches and a two-week finals series.
Pearce’s plan would see the grand final played on March 17.
“So the season runs for 11 weeks and the grand final lands the week before the AFL [season starts] so you’re not going head to head with your own product,” she said.
“You do go up against the Australian Open and Big Bash at times, but with clever fixturing, I think you can get around it.”
Pearce said the current late start, in February, was unfair.
“The commercial reality of broadcasting, trying to fit it in a timeframe where there isn’t a lot of competition against other sports, I understand that,” she said.
“Those reasons have been made pretty clear, but I’d ask are those reasons right?
“When you’re trying to offer an elite, professional women’s competition and be the premier product and sport of choice in this country, I wonder whether that’s realistic or the right decision.”
‘Insulting to all women’
Women’s football pioneer Susan Alberti was also forthright in discussing the proposed changes to the season length, telling Fairfax it was “insulting”.
“It’s insulting on the part of all women who aspire to play AFLW, from the Auskick girls to the elite level,” she said.
“It’s insulting to all women who aspire to play our great game.
“These women have got families, they’re working, they’re studying, they’re giving up a lot in life and to play six games … if it was for me personally, I wouldn’t bother.”
Geelong and North Melbourne have been added to the AFLW for the 2019 season, giving the competition 10 teams.