Since its inaugural season back in 2011/12, the Women’s Super League (WSL) has come on leaps and bounds. A new WSL TV deal with Sky Sports and BBC Sport is yet another step in the right direction in boosting female participation and widening its audience.
New BBC Sport and Sky Sports WSL TV Deal Provides Financial Boost for Women’s Game
‘One of the Biggest Deals for Women’s Football’
A new TV deal for the WSL comes close to the tenth anniversary of the league’s conception. It took until 2011 for women’s football to have their own recognised top-flight domestic competition. At that stage, eight teams competed in the WSL.
Three years later a second division was added – the WSL 2, which later became the Women’s Championship – and the top division was expanded to include ten teams. In recent years, the women’s game in England has continued to grow. The 2018/19 season saw the WSL become a fully professional league, and further growth in league size came with 12 teams competing by 2019/20.
The new TV deals will see 22 live matches on BBC TV and up to 44 live matches on Sky Sports Football, Premier League and Main Event channels.
A minimum of 18 games will feature on BBC One and BBC Two (with remaining matches online and on the Red Button). At least 35 will be shown on Sky Sports, with selected fixtures also on Sky One and Sky Sports Mix. The FA Player will continue to broadcast remaining matches not selected for live TV coverage. There will be one free-to-air game on BBC every weekend, with Sky having two other picks.
The two fresh broadcast deals, described by Sky Sports’ Managing Director Rob Webster as a pathway to “grow the women’s game now and for future generations”, pledge to provide millions of pounds to the coffers of the female side of the game – allowing further development and participation.
A partnership with two of Britain’s largest broadcasters – which is to last for at least three years – is a landmark moment for the Women’s Super League. Kelly Simmons, FA director, said: “It is one of the biggest deals commercially, definitely for women’s football in terms of a domestic deal, and up there for women’s sport.”
Monies received through the WSL TV deal will be split between clubs in the top-flight (75 per cent) and the remainder will go to teams in the Championship.
In 2019, a record-breaking 1.12 billion viewers watched the Women’s World Cup final – 28.1 million people tuned in to the BBC’s television and online coverage.