On the day the Football Federation of Australia launched the new W-League season, former Matildas captain Melissa Barbieri has revealed she is selling the majority of her personal memorabilia to raise enough money to be able play in the competition.
The 2013-14 W-League season was launched on Monday on the 14th floor of a Sydney city building, overlooking the harbour and the botanical gardens, while Barbieri was in Adelaide selling some of her prized memorabilia on an online auction site in order to provide enough financial support so she and her teammates could participate in the league.
Barbieri was not issued with a Matildas contract after spending more than a year away from the game due to the birth of her first child and, while she understands why she was overlooked, the decision has left her with less money for playing.
The 80-time Australian international spent the past three weeks auctioning the most sentimental items collected throughout her career, as well as others donated by A-League and Socceroos players, to help raise funds for herself and other struggling female footballers hoping to forge careers.
''It's not just the W-League, it's women's sport and we need something to happen in Australia for women's sport,'' Barbieri said. ''We've got some great athletes out there but, unfortunately, a lot of them are struggling. It's been frustrating for the last 12 years, it's nothing new, I just came up with a new way of helping myself out. I was thinking of things that I could do and I'm like why not fund raise?''
Barbieri may not have much more than photos and videos of her decorated career to pass on to her child but needed to raise $5000 to be able to be able to launch a comeback with Adelaide United. After receiving donations from Socceroos such as Archie Thompson and Mitchell Langerak, in the form of signed jerseys, the 33-year-old offered to pass anything over her target towards her financially struggling club teammates.
''I decided that $5000 would cover me after doing a budget and decided that anything over $5000, I'd give it to my teammates,'' Barbieri said. ''You'd find that every club has it's own way of running, there's a salary cap but there's no floor. You'll find that a player earns $10,000 in a team and another earns nothing.''
Adelaide United are one of the clubs funded by their state football bodies and many of its players are paid lower wages than those on teams linked with A-League clubs, such as Sydney FC, Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory.
''A lot of girls are washing windows to make ends meet,'' Barbieri said. ''I commend them for changing states to find a team because a lot of teams have Matildas and there's very little room for them if they're not the top young players. Coming to Adelaide has been a real testament to their courage and basically their guts.''
Despite the hardships, Barbieri says the situation has improved for female footballers who used to pay their own air fares for interstate games, but says there is still much more needed to be done.
''We see at as that we used to have to pay but now we don't have to pay for flights so it's a step better,'' she said.
A-League and W-League boss Damien De Bohun was sympathetic to the financial hardships of many of the stars of the W-League, particularly those at the clubs owned by their state football associations, Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets, but said the long-term stability of the competition remained the priority. The FFA is wary of the league falling back into financial turmoil and De Bohun said ensuring clubs were not spending beyond their means was integral to the growth of the league.
''The one thing we say over and over again is that the sustainability of the league is absolutely critical,'' De Bohun said.
''I'm certain things are improving, there's no doubt about that, [such as] the way we're able to get media involved. Is it as fragile as it was two years ago? No.
''Is there work to be done? Absolutely.''
At least one W-League game will be televised each week on ABC this season and there will be two games shown on Fox Sports.