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Head of Women’s Football for Football Australia


Sarah Walsh started her career as a professional athlete and has 70 caps and 35 international goals for Australia. She has played in major tournaments like the 2004 Olympics and 2007 FIFA World Cup and took home the silverware at the 2010 Women’s Asian Cup. She played in both the Australian League, and was drafted to the United States Women’s League and she ended her career as the captain of the domestic Western Sydney Wanderers team.

Since then she has become a sports executive, commentator, Logie nominee and public speaker who has taken her lived experience of sports high performance and parlayed it into lived expertise. She is an expert in driving social change, pay equity and inclusion, high performance and commercial innovation.

Most recently, in her role as Head of Women’s Football for Football Australia she has taken the Matildas to a home world cup and is immensely proud that they have been acknowledged as Australia’s most loved but also the most commercially profitable national team ever produced unlocking $357M in government and commercial investment. Recently ranked number 22 on News Corps 100 most influential women in sport, both her playing career and her professional career have led to this moment.

Talking Points

Breaking New Ground: When Australia fell in love with the Matildas.

In 2023 even before the Matildas reached the semi-finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup they had broken all of the records. They achieved record TV viewership, record match attendance, record merchandise sales, and a record number of kilometers covered by a single player, Katrina Gorry in the midfield. It was also a record that Katrina Gorry was a new mum returning to play professionally, enabled by an industry leading parental policy. Australian politicians took to social media to be associated with the team. The Minister for Defence announced that his portfolio could be managed by Matildas Goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold. The Minister for Sport declared she would like to be the Minister for the Matildas. Sam Kerr's calf made record headlines. We saw whole flights of passengers watching in-flight entertainment - the Matildas penalty kick-out against France in the Quarter Finals. Several millions of fans in stadiums and fan sites around Australia celebrated at the Cortnee Vine goal that sealed the record performance of any Australian national team at a FIFA World Cup. And finally, at the end of the journey, even though the team didn't take home the silverware, they delivered a win for women and girls across all sports, attracting a further $200M from the government to improve community facilities.

So what was the on and off-field strategy, operational and commercial innovation around the Matildas that managed to capture the hearts and minds of over 40% of Australians? And what changes now in the industry of sport, broadcast, media, corporate and broader society as a result of Australia falling in love with the Matildas?

As the Head of Women's Football in Australia and a former Matilda (played from 2004-2012), Sarah shares the incredible story that led to record broadcast and enagement metrics for any Australian sports team ever, mens or womens. Sarah also looks at the innovation around the Matildas that managed to create a 5x multiplier in brand value, and questions what changes now as a result of Australia falling in love with the Matildas.
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