Football chiefs have announced a “game-changing” three-year broadcast deal for the English Women’s Super League that will inject millions into the game and boost exposure.
Sky Sports will show up to 44 games per season, with the BBC screening 22 matches free-to-air in a deal reported to be worth around £7 million ($9.7 million) per year.
The Football Association’s director of the women’s professional game, Kelly Simmons, said the deal was “a game-changing agreement that will transform” the WSL.
She said she believed it was the biggest domestic commercial deal ever agreed for women’s football rights.
“This is a landmark deal, not just for the WSL but the whole of the women’s game,” said Simmons.
“When we look at the benchmarks around audience, this without doubt will take us to be the most-watched women’s sports league in the world.
“It is transformational. This is mainstream, this is prime slots on television, big audiences, week in, week out, and I think it’s such an exciting step for the women’s game. It is quite an emotional moment.”
It is the first time the rights to the WSL have been sold separately from those to the men’s game, with the 12 top-flight clubs receiving a proportion of the revenue.
Clubs in the Women’s Championship will also benefit, with 25 percent of the funds fed down to the second tier.
Games not on Sky Sports or the BBC will continue to be shown live via the FA Player, the governing body’s free streaming platform.
Despite the squeeze on clubs’ finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich expects more money to be invested in women’s football.
“I see no reason why clubs wouldn’t want to support women’s football and provide the best possible opportunity for them to succeed,” the Russian oligarch told Forbes.
“For me, this is both about the principle, but also, women’s football has huge potential. If women’s football received the same level as support as men’s football, the sport would obviously be equally successful on the business side.”