Thursday 23 March 2023, 09:00

Final venue upgrades highlight facilities growth Down Under

  • New gender-neutral change rooms unveiled at Stadium Australia

  • State-of-the-art facilities are part of several upgrades for the Australia & New Zealand Final venue

  • Improved facilities for female participants at grassroots level is planned

Leaving a lasting legacy long after the champions are crowned at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand™ is a strong local focus for the tournament. Perhaps the most visible example of change is facilities, both at grassroots and senior level. What better place to make visible and meaningful change than at Stadium Australia – venue for the Australia & New Zealand 2023 Final. This week saw the unveiling of rebuilt gender-neutral change rooms at the cavernous Sydney venue.

New gender neutral change rooms at Stadium Australia in Sydney, venue for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Final

The state-of-the-art change rooms, each with recovery pools, are part of a significant upgrade – including the longest outdoor screen in the world – that has been completed in time for Australia & New Zealand 2023. “Coming up from grassroots level, almost every female footballer can say they've experienced something along the lines of having poor facilities to prepare for a game, specifically the change rooms,” said Australia U-20 forward Abbey Lemon. “Just the little things show that the support is there – like having bathrooms, proper space, the right facilities – they just make you feel more welcome [and] more supported as a female in the sport. It’s not always been very female friendly, and that can be frustrating.”

Fellow Young Matilda star Sarah Hunter said: “I know it’s nice to have the flashy ice baths and all that, but I think it’s just knowing that you’re important and this game that you’re in is important.” It is not just at the top end of the pyramid where long-lasting change is planned. With a massive increase in female player participation - one that is expected to boom even more after this year’s tournament - improved local female facilities are a focus in both Australia and New Zealand. “To see a fantastic stadium, and one of our major stadiums, take a big step forward in investing into inclusive facilities is going to help us have that continued conversation when it comes to community facilities,” said General Manager, World Cup Legacy Programs at Football Australia, Carlee Millikin.

Australia's Sarah Hunter and Abbey Lemon inspect the new gender neutral change rooms at Stadium Australia in Sydney, venue for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Final

Just one example of the Women’s World Cup making a difference this week was at Olympic Kingsway Sports Club. The Perth-based club, which will be the training venue for Denmark in July, unveiled their new international standard lights.

Millikin added: “When we talk about our Legacy ‘23 plan, it’s all about how we strive to gain benefits out of hosting this major tournament on home soil, and a big pillar of Legacy ‘23 is facilities.”