Danny Townsend is confident that the Matildas will be a continued success in Australia after the Women’s World Cup, also revealing his biggest regret at moving the A-League and W-League Grand Finals to Sydney until 2025.
In a wide-ranging interview with Daily Mail Australia, the chief executive of the Australian Professional Leagues, which oversees the men’s and women’s national competitions, strongly believes the global game is ready to explode across the country.
Whether it’s the expansion of the A-League and W-League, the rise of elite-sanctioned academies and the co-hosting of a World Cup for the first time, Townsend is well aware that football has an opportunity it can’t afford to slip through its fingers.
And Townsend plans to be a key figure in ensuring that the code finally reaches its potential.
“We are about to see a generational opportunity to take advantage of the sport,” he said.
Australian Professional Leagues CEO Danny Townsend is confident that the Matildas will be a continued success in Australia after the Women’s World Cup.
‘The World Cup will be fantastic for Australia and New Zealand. We will have a lot of new eyes on the sport, fans who have never been live to a Matildas or W-League game before.
“Once they realize their sports heroes are playing week after week at the local level, the challenge for us is keeping the fans engaged beyond the tournament.”
With a capacity of 81,500 expected at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Thursday night when the Matildas take on the Republic of Ireland in their first Group B match, the influence of the W-League will be on full display.
The 23 players in Tony Gustavsson’s team grew up in the competition, before becoming established stars or heading to Europe.
Captain Sam Kerr was just 15 when she made her Perth Glory debut in 2008, and these days the Chelsea striker is widely regarded as the best player on the planet.
“That’s why the expansion is so important,” Townsend continued.
Matildas skipper Sam Kerr will be the face of the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand
Kerr (pictured right) made his W-League debut for Perth Glory at 15 and is now a global star with Chelsea.
‘The talent is there for all to see, young players have opportunities that previous generations could only dream of.
‘A good understanding of grassroots football is vital so that players can emerge and shine at the highest level’.
Townsend has no doubt that Australia could one day host a men’s World Cup as well, pointing to the infrastructure that already exists.
He also admitted that football in Australia has had a previous tendency to rest on its laurels.
After winning the Asian Cup in 2015, many soccer fans anticipated that the code would enjoy a surge in popularity; instead, he sometimes had trouble staying relevant.
Current Tottenham manager and former Socceroos manager Ange Postecoglou said the impressive win in Australia “barely caused a ripple”, and Townsend agreed.
“That is a fair statement, for football to progress it must be a unified effort,” he said.
‘When I say that I mean Football Australia, the federations and state governments need to be on the same page.
Young gun Mary Fowler (pictured playing in the friendly against France last Friday) is ready to be a breakout star at the Women’s World Cup
Matildas are hitting the hype on local shores and are ready to entertain in front of sellout crowds.
Katrina Gorry is an inspiration to many after returning to the Matildas shortly after having a baby girl.
“For whatever reason, that wasn’t the case after 2015, but if the Matildas excel in front of big crowds, the potential can finally be unlocked.”
Townsend is also well aware that he is a football villain in the eyes of many supporters after he sold the A-League and W-League Grand Finals to Destination NSW in a $12 million deal through 2025.
Furious fans, enraged that they were not consulted on the development, voted with their feet, refusing to attend many subsequent A-League and W-League matches across the country.
Then there were the infamous scenes during last December’s Melbourne derby at AAMI Park, which drew unwanted global headlines after several Victory ‘fans’ stormed the pitch and City goalkeeper Tom Glover was attacked with a bucket.
‘I’m next to the [grand final] decision, it was important to adapt to the times,’ Townsend said.
‘The other codes [NRL and AFL] have independent places…but if i had my time again the ad execution could have been better.
“The opinions of the fans are always important, and I understand that some people do not accept the change.
“But ultimately the decision was made with long-term sustainability in mind.”
Townsend also dismissed speculation that both domestic competitions do not need expansion teams.
“The women’s game is only going to grow beyond the World Cup, and look how successful the Western United women were in their first season, reaching the Grand Final,” she said.
‘Central Coast Mariners will be a great addition [in October] and we have high hopes for Wellington Phoenix.
‘In the men, Canberra and Auckland are franchises that we are confident will be competitive.
‘Football is about opportunity… look at Jordy Bos and Marco Tilio… they earned their stripes in the A-League Academy teams and are now based abroad in Belgium and Scotland respectively.
“The talent pool is bigger than ever, and with fans like Paramount supporting our competitions for the long haul, the onus is on the players to show what they can do so they can realize their sporting dreams.”