A THREE-YEAR partnership between the AFL and BHP has been created to assist in the development of women's football, coaching and umpiring.
Announced on Thursday, the arrangement will allow for a player development manager at each of the 14 AFLW teams, a move that was raised during the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement between the AFLPA and the AFL.
The funding provided – believed to be one of the biggest deals in Australian women's sport – will also significantly bolster the newly named BHP AFL Women's Coaching Academy and the BHP Female Umpiring Academy.
A brand-new Community Coach of the Year award will be announced at the W Awards, increasing the focus on local footy, while the funding will also assist in the development of national female community footy guidelines.
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Two annual events will also be instigated: a leadership forum between BHP and the AFLW, and a gender equality roundtable.
"The commitment by BHP is a genuine game changer. The commitment delivers player development managers in every club and support to the academies that will deliver the next generation of women coaches and umpires," AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.
AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone said the partnership will help with continuing to grow the women's game across the board, coming into the elite competition's fourth season.
"BHP has a global footprint and their long-term commitment to investing in the communities in which they operate – particularly in Australia – and this partnership will help us raise each other up," Livingstone said.
"The AFL is very proud that they have chosen to partner with the women’s game.
"This is backing our game where it really counts, helping our players on and off the field to be their best. The AFL welcomes BHP to the AFLW: together, we are going to change the game."
BHP acting president Minerals Australia, Edgar Basto, said the company was looking forward to working with the AFL and the AFLW competition.
"BHP and the AFL are two of Australia’s oldest and most iconic institutions, and we are excited by the opportunity to partner with the AFL to create more opportunities for women to thrive in business and sport," Basto said.
"We each have histories that are traditionally male dominated – this partnership will help us learn from each other in our respective journeys to create a genuinely level playing field for both women and men."