The Steeline Cup Limestone Coast Football Association (LCFA) has voted to ban girls and women from playing in its boys and men’s leagues, if the clubs they belong to already have women’s leagues.
It comes as the women’s competition joins the Steeline Cup LCFA after the South East Women’s Football Association disbanded, with both the men’s and women’s leagues now falling under the single umbrella of the LCFA.
Steeline Cup LCFA president Eric Nieto said the move was made to provide equal opportunities for women and men by ensuring that more players were playing football in their own leagues.
However, while Mr Nieto said the decision had been made to increase the competitiveness of the women’s competition, he admitted the move could benefit some clubs and not others.
“What we have now is a women’s and men’s league under the one umbrella … we feel now that if you want to promote the women, then they should be playing in the women’s league,” Mr Nieto told The SE Voice.
Mr Nieto said that “this is going to be a learning year for us”.
“This is all new territory,” he said.
“We have never had men and women playing in their own Steeline Cup LCFA leagues.
“This is not going to be a year that suits everybody.”
Senior women have been cut off from playing in the senior men’s competition entirely.
While the move affects clubs across the entire league, the decision unilaterally affects regional outfits, like Millicent United SC, which frequently utilise unisex teams to be able to field enough players.
Mr Nieto said that teams had, however, been using women in their men’s teams ahead of other men.
The SE Voice understands that Millicent United SC is looking to have the decision overturned.
The move would also affect Gambier Centrals SC.
In 2020, the club was the home of the year’s men’s reserves league medallist and multi-award-winning club medallist, Tess Andrews.
Ms Andrews is also a frequent winner of the senior women’s best and fairest, picking up the award in 2020 and is currently playing in the Women’s SANFL for Glenelg Tigers.
Despite this, Ms Andrews said that it was the first she had heard of the ban when The SE Voice contacted her for comment.
“It feels very personal when it only affects a few of us,” Ms Andrews said of the senior women’s ban, noting that only a handful of women play in the senior men’s league.
She believed the league had “destroyed a significant development pathway” for talented junior players.
“It’s been 18 years since I played my first ‘boys’ soccer game and it’s shameful that anyone thinks they have the right to take that opportunity away from myself, or other girls and women in the South East,” Ms Andrews said.
“There is no one that benefits from this decision, but it is to the detriment of talented female players and the clubs who rely on them to play.
“They have destroyed a significant development pathway for talented female junior players who are already at a huge disadvantage living 450km away from the next level of competition.”