For the first time, the Women’s Super League will be broadcast on free-to-air television as part of a historic three-year deal.
From next season, the WSL games will be broadcast live worldwide as part of a multi-million dollar contract.
The remaining matches, which have not been selected for broadcast by the TV channel or Sky, will be shown live on the FA Player.
Twenty-two matches will be broadcast live, including at least 18 on One or Two.
Kelly Simmons of the Football Association expects the WSL to attract significantly more viewers as a result of the deal.
This is one of the biggest commercial deals, she said, certainly for women’s soccer in terms of home contracts, and for women’s sports in general.
We have benchmarks for what we believe are the most successful high-level women’s sports leagues in the world, such as the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) and the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League), and they run into the hundreds of thousands in terms of average weekly peak.
We expect this figure to be considerably higher.
Sky Sports will take over the broadcast of up to 44 matches, which will be broadcast on the Main Event, Premier League and Sky Sports Football channels.
The contracts with both broadcasters run until the summer of 2024.
Steph Houghton, England and Manchester City captain, told Sport it was an incredible step forward for women’s football and the players were looking forward to showing the world what an incredible league we have.
The way the sport has developed in this country in recent years is incredible, she added.
I think this will really push our league to be the best in Europe, if not the world.
What are the details of the transfer?
Previous WSL matches on Red Button and iPlayer, plus a weekly highlight show.
- 22 live TV matches, including at least 18 one-offs (the rest of the matches on the red button and online).
- Up to 44 live matches, at least 35 of which are broadcast on Sky Sports, Premier League and Main Event football channels.
- Some matches will also be broadcast on Sky One and Sky Sports Mix.
- All broadcasters can benefit from online coverage, video clips and highlights (WSL clubs can also benefit from video clips and highlights).
- Other matches not selected for live streaming on FA Player
- A free match is shown every weekend, and there are two other choices on Sky.
- Selected matches must be played on Friday at 18:30 GMT, Saturday at 11:30 GMT, Sunday at 12:30 GMT and Sunday at 18:30 GMT.
- 75% of the investment income goes to the WSL clubs and 25% to the women’s league.
A turning point for the WSL
Simmons, director of the FC Women’s Professional Game, said the agreement brings together two of FC’s main priorities: raising the profile of the WFL and attracting investment to develop the quality of the league.
We just desperately want more and better. It’s always about looking forward and trying to fix what we don’t like. This looks like one of the most memorable moments in women’s soccer, Simmons said.
The work we do now will be to estimate those future revenues. We always told the clubs to believe and invest, and now the game is starting to turn a profit and [no longer] depend on the men’s game in the long run.
It will be a lot to see next season. I’m sure this will inspire thousands and thousands of girls to play, so I can’t wait.
Catherine Swarbrick, director of sales and marketing at FA, added: This is a moment to celebrate – a turning point in the future of the WSL – with just incredible prospects.
That reach, combined with this huge investment in the game, gives us full confidence that this will be a big step forward in achieving our goal of having the best women’s national professional league in the world.
How does the transaction compare with the rest of the world?
Christen Press (right), of Manchester United, is among the American World Cup winners who joined the WSL this summer.
The FA said it expects the number of spectators to be well above that of the world’s most popular and established national women’s sporting competitions.
They also said it was by far the largest commercial broadcast deal in women’s soccer.
We will broadcast more matches live, reach a wider audience and generate more revenue than any other national women’s league in the world, Swarbrick said.
I think that’s an important testament to the strength of the product that is WSL today.
A record 1.12 billion viewers tuned in to the 2019 World Cup, according to Fifa, 28.1 million of whom watched the broadcast on TV and online.
We attract players from all over the world, but at the same time English players can compete with the best in this league, Houghton said.
The level of competition is rising, and a lot of that is because people are coaching full time.
It’s probably only in the last few years – after the 2015 World Cup – that it’s grown so fast. It’s very special to be in the middle of this.
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