Women's football could be saving grace for struggling men's leagues says Tasmanian Football Council
Investing in women's football could help local men's teams, which are struggling to stay viable according to Tasmania's Football Council.
Shrinking rural populations fuelled by tough economic conditions have made it harder for some local football leagues to attract enough male players to fill senior sides.
Three clubs were forced to withdraw from competition this season, Tasmanian Football Council (TFC) general manager Barry Gibson said.
"Woodsdale in the Southern Midlands competition unfortunately went into recession, as did Fingal in the Northern Tasmanian Football Association," he said.
I think women's football re-invigorates men's competitions, especially if they become ingrained in the football club.
Barry Gibson Tasmanian Football Council
"Branxholm went into recession - they were the reigning premiers in the North East Football Union, so to go from reigning premiers to being in recession is a scary situation."
It is a state-wide problem the TFC is working with leagues to solve.
Investigations on the state of football Tasmania's north and south highlighted a number of challenges facing clubs, including difficulties convincing junior players to stay on at senior levels.
"We really need to create a system and a structure where regardless of fluctuations and populations and economic conditions, our competition can remain sustainable," Mr Gibson said.
He believes attracting more women to the game is one answer.
"I think women's football re-invigorates men's competitions, especially if they become ingrained in the football club," he said.
"[Women's football] is massive - it's the biggest growing sector of football in Australia, there's a lot of interest and there's new teams playing more and more."
Evandale club soars with female players
Evandale Football Club in Tasmania's north has been reaping the rewards of entering a team in the Tasmanian Women's League this season.
"The majority of the girls haven't played footy before but they're really enjoying it and they're getting better and better every week." said club president Patrick Davey.
The team, named the Weagles to differentiate between their male counterparts, the Eagles, has boosted club sponsorship by 30 per cent and attracted bigger crowds to the games.
"Our canteen does better, our bar does better and our gate does better, which is all beneficial for our football club," Mr Davey said.
Kiara Foley, 20, is one of the team's more experienced players, having kicked goals for Tasmania's state women's team.
The Launceston local said she loves the community atmosphere at Evandale.
"I've loved every second of it, the support out here is unreal we get a full house of crowd, it's just insane." she said.
Clubs consider benefits of more female teams
The North East Football Union (NEFU) is also looking at whether entering a team into the women's league could help boost men's participation in its region.
After Branxholm went into recession the NEFU was only left with four teams.
League president Alan Rosier said there was enough interest to get women into the game.
"It would create an immense interest within the district," he said.
"I mean you're looking at having probably 30 young ladies to form a football club - 18 on the field and four interchanges - but you always need some spares.
"It would boost our community attraction at an event, which is just not set in the old lines."