The funding gap which ‘says a lot’ about the difference between England & the Matildas

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson hopes one day Australia’s women’s football program can have similar a level of funding to that of England’s, marvelling at the level of investment the English FA have pumped into their setup.

Leading into Australia’s semi-final clash against England at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson detailed the differences in the two nation’s footballing programs and praised the standard of the Women’s Super League (WSL) which has quickly become the premier football league in the women’s game.

The Matildas boss said he hopes Australian football can one day have similar resourcing to that of England’s women’s national side, which he believes will have a greater effect beyond just the senior national team.

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“Scouting over there (in England), watching training and games and seeing them play week in and week out, whether it’s a Champions League game, league game or a FA Cup game. It’s amazing,” he said.

“The other thing is that the investment they might be a little bit further ahead than us in investing in terms of the money and resources.

“Same for the national team. I think someone told me that the women’s program in the women’s FA have the same budget as all national team in our FA.

“It says a lot about the resources and the money that they have and that I think is also contributing to the development of players because it means more full time staff, it means better training facilities, more resources, more full time players.

“So we’re on the beginning of that journey and I hope we sit here in 10 or 20 years from now and say this was a crossroads moment when it comes to investment in women’s football and we can have the same resources and the same money as well.”

Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold is one of many Aussies now playing in the WSL, joining West Ham in 2020 where she’s gone on to solidify herself as the Hammers’ first choice option.

Arnold gave a players perspective on the growth of the game in the UK, praising the manner in which women’s football has continued to evolve in the last few years.

“I think all of us that play in that league, we can just say it’s a different world honestly from coming from the W-League (Liberty A-League),” Arnold said.

“Just the amount of professionalism and the talent that they have over there and the amount of time that they put into their clubs and players, it really shows the progress both individually and the game as a whole.

“I think after seeing the Euros and then winning that and seeing how much it really took off and how much money was invested over there. It just really goes to show the progression that they’ve had.”

In wake of winning the Euros last year, the English government pledged to pump over £600 million (A$1.2 billion) into women’s football over multiple years, in order to provide girls with equal access to football at schools.

Sport England also awarded £1 million (A$1.96m) of National Lottery funding as a result of the country hosting last year’s European championships, with the view of increasing the number of adult women playing football in England.

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It comes at a time where prominent voices in Australian football have voiced their concerns over the lack of federal government funding in the women’s game, including Matildas legends Melissa Barbieri and Elise Kellond-Knight.

Despite the glaring differences in off-field windfall, the Matildas go into tomorrow’s game with more than a fighter’s chance of coming away with a win which would book their place in a first ever Women’s World Cup final.

Gustavsson was asked how his side measures up with the Lionesses going into the game, saying that England may be favourites on paper, but the intangibles, including the expected 75,000+ strong crowd at Stadium Australia is something he believes they have in their favour.

“I’ll leave it to you guys to speculate and write about that, you’re much better than me on, on that. That’s your expertise,” he said.

“If you look at rankings, they’re favourites, if you look at where the players play, they have starting players in top clubs in top leagues all over the world, not just the 11, they have like 15, 16.

“And then you, compare it to us, we have bench players in those teams and we have players playing in, in A-League, we have players playing in mid table teams in Sweden.

“So if you look at all that and you look at resources financially, obviously, they are a massive favourite going into this game.

“But if you then add the belief we have, but the one thing that we have that they don’t have is the support and the belief from the fans and that itself is going to be massive tomorrow.