‘Our phones began to blow up’: Matildas’ World Cup success is translating into off-field opportunities
Hayley Raso, a winger for the Matildas, scored Australia's second goal on Monday night in front of 75,000 fans and at least two player managers. This put Australia in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
"Our phones started to blow up because I think Australia realised it was real," said Leon Spellson, managing director of marketing specialist ESE The Agency, which represents Raso and fellow Matildas Katrina Gorry and Cortnee Vine.
Spellson and Alexandra Williamson, another managing director, set up their first call at 6 a.m. on Tuesday. "I think the opportunity has grown by leaps and bounds," said Williamson, who has been contacted by companies and agencies from Australia and around the world.
Millions of people watched Monday's game on Channel Seven. The number of viewers beat out both last week's Matildas game against Canada and Channel Nine's popular first State of Origin rugby league game. It also set a record for the most people watching a TV show on the free-to-air Channel Seven this year.
Kate Gill, who is co-chief executive of Professional Footballers Australia, said that the Matildas were now "certified box office" gold.
"But their rise isn't just a fluke because of the World Cup," she said. "It's part of a long-running pattern."
Andrew Goodieson, who is in charge of data at the sports marketing company Gemba, has known for a long time that the Matildas could be good for business. "There are a lot of stats that show they're always in the top two most marketable sports teams in Australia, and based on how they're doing right now, I think they'd be a solid number one."
But the World Cup still had a bigger effect on him than he thought it would. "I think what's surprised me the most is how close Australians have become to the different athletes," he said. "Sam Kerr is very popular, but Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, Mary Fowler, and Ellie Carpenter are names that everyone knows."
Gemba's Asset Power Score, which will be changed at the end of the month, keeps track of how well-known and liked Australian players are.
Goodieson said, "I wouldn't be surprised if those big five athletes are on that team with big names like Ash Barty and Daniel Ricciardo."
The ESE team of sports The Agency is made up of only women, but it works with many different sports.
ESE Williamson from The Agency said it's a moment of truth for people in sports and business. She said, "Now is probably the time for everyone, from brands to national bodies, to stop and think about the fact that these women are full-time professional athletes who should be paid the same as the men."
The Matildas' success on the pitch could also lead to more exciting chances. Rob Juric, a player agent who is licenced by FIFA, takes care of Vine and Courtney Nevin's playing needs. "The deeper you go in the competition, the more likely it is that these top clubs will be watching a lot of the players on those teams."
But he said that players were still paid in different ways, both between teams and between clubs in the same league. For the upcoming A-League Women's season, the minimum wage for players will be set at $25,000. This gives local players some stability for a programme that includes 18 games plus the playoffs. In the comparable 26-match men's game, the minimum pay for teenagers is $45,000 and goes up with age.
People like Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, and Steph Catley, who play in the English Women's Super League, will make a lot more money. "Some of the best players in that league make over 100, 200, or 500 thousand pounds per season, but that's the top of the range. The average weight could be between 50 and 70 thousand pounds.
The English Professional Footballers' Association says that the average weekly pay for men's English Premier League players is £60,000.
Juric said that the job is still hard everywhere else. "In Denmark's first division, for example, you might make €2,000 or €2,500 a month."
Spellson and Williamson wanted to find business chances for their clients ahead of the World Cup buzz. One idea was to sell hair bows like the ones Hayley Raso wears on the field. They have also helped people like Grace Gill, a former Matilda, and Elise Kellond-Knight, a former player who got hurt and is now an analyst because she can't play, find jobs in the media.
Spellson said, "This is a turning point for the Matildas and for female athletes in general." "It will give them the chance to be where they belong, where they should have been, and where they should be in the future," we said.
Williamson has spent time with Raso, Gorry, and Vine during the game, but he hasn't talked to them about how their success will affect their businesses. She remembers telling them, "The further you go, the crazier it will get." "But you should trust us with this.
"They know that when the World Cup is over, we will have a lot to talk to them about, but our job is to protect them and make sure they focus on the football so we can deal with the roller coaster of excitement that is happening out here right now."