Australian top-flight set for a radical overhaul: A-League Men, A-League Women

Australia's professional football leagues will undergo a major change heading into the 2021-22 season, with the competitions unified under a new "A-Leagues" banner to be formally unveiled by league administrators, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) on Wednesday. The W-League will become the A-League Women (ALW), while the A-League will officially become known as the A-League Men (ALM) competition.

Other APL properties such as the Y-League -- now the A-League Youth -- will follow a similar format. The re-branding means that football will become the first major professional sport in Australia, and among the first in the world, to formally designate its men's competition as such in its formal branding -- a contrast to rival domestic codes such as Australian rules (AFL and AFLW), rugby league (NRL and NRLW) and cricket (BBL and WBBL).

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"It's a really important message to get across to Australians and worldwide as well," Sydney FC ALW defender Ally Green said. "It's a world-leading announcement and we're part of something really special here in Australia and in football.

"It's just Australian football now and I think it's a really important message to send to the other sports in Australia.

"I think they're only going to follow and want to be on the same pedestal as us. It's exciting that we're one of the first in Australia and it will only progress and develop each league moving forward in the future."

The re-imagining will mark the most significant changes made by the APL since they took control of Australia's professional football competitions earlier this year, differentiating their new properties from the versions that were governed by Football Australia ahead of their first full season in charge.

"We did a lot of research right across the game," APL Chief Commercial Officer Ant Hearne said. "Coaches, players and, importantly, fans. Their input has really shaped what we've got as a brand. It's just been so awesome to see how they've all embraced that."

"It's not men's football or women's football, it's just football," APL Managing Director and Sydney FC CEO Danny Townsend added.

"We're committed to growing the game in Australia -- for everyone. That means delivering a world-class experience on and off the pitch and inspiring the next generation of A-Leagues superstars to fulfil their highest potential. This is just the beginning of our ambitious, long-term vision for the growth of football in Australia."

The re-naming of the competitions will be accompanied by new branding of the leagues -- including a new logo inadvertently leaked during Melbourne City's kit reveal last week -- and the amalgamation of the league's various websites and social media accounts under a single, unified banner. A new font has been commissioned for the backs of jerseys, and it is expected that new naming rights sponsors for both leagues will be announced in the coming weeks.

"For all of us to say we're under one umbrella is a proud moment," Melbourne City and Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren said.

"Not only for me as a footballer but for everyone involved in football in Australia. It's an exciting time and we look forward to the future under this umbrella with the leagues."

Melbourne Victory ALW striker Melina Ayres told ESPN: "It's a huge moment for our game, and it's great that it will all be integrated and come under one banner, the A-Leagues.

"It will be good for women's football to be on the same platform, so that we can showcase our skills and talent."

The APL said there will be a new focus on storytelling as part of an increased focus on producing its own content. New advertising and promotional materials incorporating the new designs are set to be rolled out for the leagues ahead of their commencements on Nov. 19 for ALM and Dec. 3 for ALW. These will also undergo a slight tonal shift to focus on more promoting young talent and creating new stars -- part of an attempt to provide aspirational figures and pathways that will attract buy-in from the sport's disproportionately young audience that league research has shown aren't following the domestic leagues.

"The W-League has been running for 13 years now, since 2008," Green added. "We've seen some massive changes over the years but this is the biggest one yet.

"It's really going to mean that [for] future generations of footballers coming through -- men and women -- it's really exciting that we're taking this next step and that it's a welcoming, cohesive league that Australia represents anyway.

"To show that in football is really special."