Women’s football in New Zealand is in danger of getting left behind, if it can’t establish professional pathways here.
That's the view of Sarai Bareman, FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer, who says the evolution of the game is advancing rapidly.
Earlier this month FIFA published its Physical Analysis of the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019.
It concluded the fitness demands had sky-rocketed from the previous World Cup in Canada four years earlier, and players were quicker than ever.
"What it points to is the environment around those players is becoming far more professional, many more of them are working at an elite-level, high performance environment and you start to see that reflected on the pitch," Bareman told 1 NEWS.
She says New Zealand is currently an "amateur football country" when it comes to the women’s game.
"If we want to retain that talent in the country, we need to ensure there is a pathway there for them there."
The establishment of a Wellington Phoenix women's side has recently been touted, particularly with the success of the Trans-Tasman 2023 bid.
Bareman's urging investors to move quickly, with the men’s game already “completely saturated.”
"If you look at the women's game compared to that … you can clearly see in football where the biggest growth opportunity lies. It's the women's game, for sure.
"The Women's World Cup in New Zealand and Australia in 2023 is going to provide a massive boost, and that's a moment that you have to leverage. I would say this is the time to invest.”
Ferns coach backs calls for urgent action
Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni agrees that a professional team in New Zealand is critical to the development of players.
"At the moment I think it’s fair to say the competition within the team is limited because we don’t have the number of players that we need.
“But it’s also difficult for those players outside because we don’t have a pathway to be able to identify them and give them opportunities."
He agrees New Zealand is in danger of being left behind, in terms of the physical evolution of the game.
“To be honest, I think that process is already in place. We’ve seen that with the rise of Europe.”
Seven of the eight quarter finalists at last year’s Women’s World Cup came from Europe.
When will we see a Phoenix women’s side?
The Wellington Phoenix says it is working hard to launch a women's team, possibly as early as this year.
"We want to capitalise on [the World Cup] by really pushing along with our plans for a W-League side," General Manager David Dome says.
"We've been working on that for quite some time, a couple of years. We think we've got some good backing behind it, working closely with Andrew Pragnell and New Zealand Football, as to how to make it work as a joint proposition with New Zealand Football.
“It all comes down to finances and how we can afford it. We need to be really careful in that space, because it's a particularly tough time for sports across the world, and A-League, and Wellington Phoenix is certainly not immune to any of that.”
A Phoenix women's team would be based in Australia, with "at least a couple of games in New Zealand."
A number of Football Ferns have expressed an interest to 1 NEWS in playing for a Phoenix team, if it was to get off the ground.
Sarai Bareman believes it's a critical step for the development of the national side.
"You want to be able to grow grassroots talent and to keep that talent in the country."
The Australian W-League is scheduled to start in December 2020.