The FA has announced it has signed a “landmark” multimillion pound deal with Sky Sports and the BBC for the broadcast rights to the Women’s Super League. The agreement, which will run for three years from the 2021-22 season, is believed to be worth around £8m a season and to be the biggest broadcast deal of any professional women’s football league in the world.
Some of the money will be used for central investments, which will include support for and development of refereeing, while the rest will be split among clubs with the WSL receiving 75% and the Championship a 25% share. Some of the money will be merit-based.
“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.”
Sky Sports will show up to 44 live games across its Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Premier League channels with some matches also being shown simultaneously on Sky One and Sky Sports Mix. Sky will show two fixtures per round and the BBC will show one, with the other 75 games being aired on the FA Player.
The managing director of Sky Sports, Robert Webster, said the company would “be giving 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.”
The FA’s director of commercial and marketing, Kathryn Swarbrick, added: “We are going to be working really closely with Sky Sports on what they do best, which is to monster this whole thing up, so really driving awareness of the WSL, building a profile of the players, of the clubs, and also creating the kind of content that will excite fans on the pre- and post-match commentary, and the story-telling around the WSL more broadly.”
The BBC have committed to putting 18 of their 22 games on BBC One and BBC Two. Both Sky Sports and the BBC have the rights to online highlights rights and clubs will be able to use in-game clips and highlights too.
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.”
In consultation with clubs and to maximise the audience, while being mindful of the Premier League’s scheduling, there are four time slots being worked on. 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.
In recent months clubs have suffered a host of postponements as the pitches used by women’s clubs have struggled to cope with bad weather and hosting multiple games a week. Bringing them up to a playable standard week-in week-out, ideally introducing hybrid Desso pitches and improving the facilities available to broadcasters to improve the standard of broadcasting is a priority, said Simmons.
“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.”