The Women’s World Cup semifinal between the Matildas and the Lionesses in Sydney has broken local broadcast records to become the most-watched television programme in Australia since 2001, according to Australian broadcaster Seven.
Some 11.15 million viewers in the country tuned in to watch as England stopped co-hosts Australia 3-1 on Wednesday night to reach the Women’s World Cup final, racking up an average audience of 7.13 million on Seven and 7Plus.
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The domestic TV audience reported for the quarterfinal win was the biggest in Australia for any event since the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The current ratings system was established in 2001.
The semifinal broadcast was significantly larger than the biggest men’s games in the Aussie rules Australian Football League and the National Rugby League that so frequently pull the biggest crowds.
In what has been an immense shift in the Australian public’s sporting consciousness, nine out of 10 people who watched commercial television on Wednesday night tuned in to see Sam Kerr’s side take on the reigning European champions.
The audience reach of 11.5 million and an average audience of 7.13 million reported by the free-to-air broadcaster excludes paid streaming, and those who gathered at dedicated fan zones, where some overexuberant revellers let off flares, and in pubs and clubs around the country.
The match was attended by a 75,784-strong crowd and also broke the country’s record for a streaming event, with 957,000 online viewers.
“We’ve kind of captured the nation,” a visibly dejected Kerr said after the match.
“The support we’ve had has been amazing and we’ll do everything we can on the weekend to get them a third place.”
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) August 16, 2023
Morning news bulletins on Thursday reported the “heartbreak” for the Matildas, and daily newspapers across the country once again heavily featured the women’s national team. A high-profile sports store in downtown Sydney still had the Matildas jerseys – hard to attain in recent weeks – on display at full price.
The fact that an entire nation almost expected the Matildas to win the title says a lot about the pressure Kerr and her 10th-ranked team faced on home soil.
Kerr, who converted to football from Aussie rules as a teenager because she was no longer allowed to play in boys’ leagues, has seen a phenomenal transformation in the game since she made her international debut in 2009.
“We just feel really proud that they’ve got behind us and we’ve changed the way women’s football is seen in Australia,” Kerr added.
“It’s been amazing. A big thank you.”
In the final on Sunday in Sydney, England play Spain who defeated Sweden 2-1 in the other semifinal on Tuesday to also reach the decider for the first time.
Australia, who had never gone beyond the quarterfinals before, meet Sweden in the match for third place on Saturday in Brisbane.