W-League Expansion Announced As New Zealand Joins The Party

There has been talk about a New Zealand-based club joining the W-League for quite a while. Wellington Phoenix, who initially looked like joining last season were finally announced overnight as the newest club for 2021/22. We hear from the APL, Phoenix officials and also discover further expansion plans for 12 months time.

Artwork: W-League.

The W-League will grow its number of matches by more than a quarter next season, with the introduction of Wellington Phoenix as the competition’s 10th team.

As the strategy for the growth of women’s football announced by the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) last week immediately comes to life, Phoenix will become the first new team in the competition since 2015.

The removal of byes from the draw and an extra round of finals means the competition will grow from 57 games to 74 next season, immediately widening opportunities for players less than two years before the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 to be held in Australia and New Zealand.

Western United FC and Central Coast Mariners have both stated their intention to join the W-League in 2022, whilst discussions continue with Macarthur FC, as APL delivers on its promise to invest significantly in women’s football and fulfil its commitment that each A-League Club has a W-League team. Under the terms of Wellington’s women’s team joining the W-League, at least seven players must be Australian, while up to four more can be visa players.

The team will be run as a partnership between Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand Football. It is likely to be based in New South Wales for the early stages of the coming season, until the resumption of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Above: Wellington Phoenix’s W-League ambitions have finally come to fruition. Photo: APL/New Zealand Football.

“We promised we would move quickly to implement the vision contained in our strategy for the growth of women’s football, and having Wellington join the W-League next season immediately creates more games and more football,” said Greg O’Rourke, APL Leagues Commissioner. 

“It comes hot on the heels of a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement that immediately lifts standards across all our clubs, particularly for the players in the W-League teams.

“We would like to thank both Football Australia and New Zealand Football for their part in helping us to expand the W-League. This is an exciting day for APL but is just one more step in our bold plans for the growth of the game.”

Wellington Phoenix General Manager David Dome paid tribute to the recent work that led to this expansion announcement.

“This is the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance to make a professional women’s football team in New Zealand a reality,” said Dome.

“Thanks must go to APL and the incredible work they have done since taking control of the A-League and W-League eight months ago; their strategic focus on providing more games and more opportunities for the nations’ elite female footballers – across both sides of the Tasman – is vital to the growth of the game.”

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