Nothing was more exciting than watching the Matildas play in the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup. The tournament on home soil broke so many records, and the inspiration it gave young football players will be remembered. Darling sat down with Paul Avery, President of Balmain & District Football Club (BDFC) to learn how it positively impacted the club.
You’re the largest community football club in Australia and recently celebrated 50 years, what other aspects of the club are special?
Balmain & District Football Club (BDFC) is an integral part of the local community. Our mission is to encourage participation and celebrate achievement at all levels, and our membership reflects that. We passed the 3,000 player mark this year, but it’s the diversity of that player base that sets us apart. We have 1,066 girls and women playing for BDFC – that’s 35%, which is well beyond the state and national participation rates. We are also proudly a volunteer-driven club, with more than 430 volunteer coaches, managers and age coordinators helping to get all our players onto the field weekly.
What positive impact did the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup have on the club and players?
The FIFA Women’s World Cup shone a spotlight on our sport and showed how
fast, skilful and exciting women’s football is. We saw families with young children and grandparents turning up to watch live sport and loving every minute of the experience. We also saw politicians at every level finally recognise the need for more investment in facilities, programs and infrastructure to support all those girls and women who play football.
How did BDFC get involved?
In the weeks before the first game, we got lots of calls from Ministers’ offices and media outlets to be part of announcements and events, such as the launch official FIFA at Darling Harbour. Our distinctive BDFC orange shirt was popping up everywhere! As a club, through the generosity of our premier sponsor, Phil Gilbert Kia, we had tickets to games to giveaway, as well as merchandise. The highlights were having one of our Under 14 players Saskia Gibson, walk the match ball onto the field at the Matildas’ opening game at Stadium Australia, and also being part of the Inner West Council live site on the harbour foreshore for the Matildas quarter-final match, which included that record-breaking penalty shootout against France!
Did you expect the FIFA Women’s World Cup to be so popular?
Yes! The Matildas performance in the Olympics showed what a quality team they are. As a ‘football family’, our members were among the first to buy tickets in the presales. It was great to see record crowds attend the games in both Australia and New Zealand.
With the increase in popularity of football, how will the club manage extra players?
We’re already seeing it, with our summer programs filled in record time. There is a chronic shortage of fields in the Balmain, Rozelle, Lilyfield and Annandale areas, particularly over the summer period. Our local community want to play football and they want to play on local fields, we need to advocate together for this. The dedicated football field being built at the Rozelle Interchange will help, but it needs to be all-weather to cope with the volume of players – especially girls and women – who have been inspired by the Matildas and who want to play football for our club.
BALMAIN AND DISTRICT FOOTBALL CLUB