Australia may have had its dream of Women’s World Cup glory end on Wednesday following a 3-1 defeat to England, but that did not stop captain Sam Kerr from calling for more soccer funding in the country as it looks to take advantage of the boom in interest in the sport following the tournament.
“We are there, we’re right there,” Kerr said to reporters in the immediate aftermath of the semifinal loss, according to Seven Network, a CNN affiliate. “I can only speak for the Matildas. We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots. We need funding. We need funding everywhere.
“The comparison to other sports isn’t really good enough, and hopefully, this tournament kind of changes that because that’s the legacy you leave – not what you do on the pitch.
“The legacy is what you do off the pitch. And hopefully, I mean, it’s hard to talk about now, but hopefully, this is the start of something new,” Kerr added, according to Seven.
CNN has reached out to Football Australia who declined to comment but offered an interview opportunity at a future date. CNN has yet to receive a response from the Australian Sports Commission, the government agency responsible for supporting and investing in sport at all levels in the country.
The Australian women’s team made national history at the tournament, becoming the first team – men’s or women’s – to reach a soccer World Cup semifinal.
The impact of the Matildas’ run is evidenced by the record-breaking viewing figures shared by the Seven Network who broadcasted the co-host’s games in Australia. Seven said the semifinal’s audience reached 11.15 million in Australia, with a national average audience of 7.13 million.
Those figures make the game the most watched TV program since the inception of OzTAM, Australia’s audience measurement system, Seven added.
According to Seven, the network’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup as a whole had reached 14.04 million viewers on broadcast alone, as well as a further 3.4 million via its streaming platform, 7plus.
Kerr’s vice-captain Steph Catley furthered the striker’s calls for better financial support of the sport. “When you look at football in general in Australia, football is very much not funded the way it should be,” she said after the match, Seven reported.
“There’s no argument now that people aren’t interested; people are interested. The numbers are there. Kids are playing. People want to be watching the sport.
“So yeah, hopefully, this has just been enough to prove that and to create the argument and to improve facilities, improve standards for women in football, football in general,” Catley added.
Australia manager Tony Gustavsson agreed with his players’ pleas for improved funding.
“This is not the end of something, this needs to be the start of something, and with that comes money as well,” Gustavsson told reporters.
Sarina Wiegman, the Dutch manager of England’s Lionesses, was also asked how Australia could take advantage of the team’s successful World Cup run.
“Now is where (Australia) has to take the next step,” Wiegman said. “What does this bring? I don’t have all the context, but how can Australia grow the game for little kids? (For) boys and girls, especially girls from six to adult players?
“How can they support that and get better situations and better facilities for everyone? And the professional game, of course. This gives a boost and gets people interested in supporting the women’s game.”