The FA has announced it has signed the biggest broadcast deal of any professional women's league in the world with the BBC and Sky Sports for the Women's Super League (WSL).
The deal, which is thought to be worth around £8 million per-season, will see some of its funds used for central investments, including support for and developing referees, with the remainder split among the clubs. The WSL will receive 75 per cent whilst the Championship will see a 25 per cent share.
Sky Sports are set to show up to 44 live games across its varying main football channels and the BBC will broadcast 22 games, of which they have committed to showing 18 on BBC One and BBC Two.
A consultation between the broadcasters and the clubs are taking place to work on four time slots, with the aim of maximising the audience and being mindful of the Premier League's scheduling. The four slots proposed include the first pick being on Sunday at 12:30pm, the second on Saturday at 11:30am, the third on Sunday at 6:30pm and a fourth on Friday at 6:30pm.
“It is a landmark moment for the women’s game and a massive breakthrough for women’s sport and women’s football,” said the FA’s director of the women’s professional game, Kelly Simmons. “There’s no doubt that, when you look at football and professional sports, the media rights is the fundamental driver behind the revenue growth. So this is a huge step forward in that sense.”
The director of BBC Sport, Barbara Slater, said: “This is fantastic news for sports fans and for women’s football. We are delighted to offer the FA Women’s Super League a free-to-air platform to ensure the sport, and the players, connect with the widest possible audience.”
The managing director of Sky Sports, Robert Webster, said the broadcaster would look to give the "Women’s Super League the full Sky Sports treatment with lengthy buildups and reaction to all live matches, plus a daily narrative of the league across Sky Sports News and our digital platforms.”
In the last few months, the women's game has suffered from a number of postponements due to bad weather and poor pitch quality from hosting multiple games per week. Simmons said that it was of priority to improve the standards of the pitches in order to improve the broadcasting of the sport, ideally through the introduction of hybrid Desso pitches.
"We’re working with the Football Foundation and we’ve got a plan over the next two years to support clubs to improve the quality of their pitches,” she added.
“As part of the cost of this sale we’ve built-in, where we need, pitch covers as we have in the men’s FA Cup, so that if we’ve got a real concern about a game and there’s really bad weather on the horizon we can get that pitch covered so we make sure we get the games away.”
Author: Jake Wilkin