Sky Sports has announced a landmark three-year deal to become the primary broadcaster of the Women’s Super League from September 2021.
The games are currently shown on BT Sports and FA player. This deal means Sky Sports, as well as BBC, will be broadcasting women’s football for the first time.
A minimum of 35 games will be screened live across its channels—Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Football—with some matches also shown simultaneously on Sky Sports Mix and Sky One.
Sky intends to give each game a pre-match preview and post-match reaction for each game.
The investment deal is estimated to be just under €10 million per season, including production and marketing commitments. It has the right to show up to 44 matches per season, with a minimum of 35 being screened.
BBC has also committed to showcasing 22 live games per season, with a minimum of 18 on BBC One and BBC Two. Previously, games have been shown live on BBC but only through the iPlayer and Red Button service.
It is the first time the rights to the WSL have been sold separately from the men’s game, with clubs in the league receiving a proportion of the revenue. Part of it will also be distributed to clubs in the Women’s Championship, with the split being 75% (WSL) to 25%.
The FA’s director of the women’s professional game, Kelly Simmons, said the deal was “a game-changing agreement that will transform” the WSL.
Simmons said it will “take us to be the most watched women’s sports league in the world” and that she believed it was the biggest deal commercially for women’s football.
“I think it is the biggest deal commercially for women’s football in terms of a domestic deal, and up there with women’s sport.
This separate TV deal brings a lot of things currently missing on the table. It generates more exposure to the game and more opportunities to showcase the talent that is often gone unseen. It also brings more revenue, which all sports teams need to advance.
More media coverage will also be welcome as the national teams prepare for the upcoming UEFA European Championship. The competition takes place in England in 2022.
The deal will also be exciting for the ten Irish women who are currently playing in the Super League. This includes Katie McCabe for Arsenal, West Ham’s Leanne Kiernan and Rhianna Jarrett for Brighton and Hove Albion.
Closer to home, exposure for women’s football is also improving. Earlier this year, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) announced that all the women’s game would be streamed in time the new season.
The FAI currently operates a subscription service to stream the men’s games, with a season membership costing up to 60. The women’s games are now available to watch on the same service with no charge.
The prize money for winning the League has increased by 41% and the grand total sits at 50,000. For the first time, the men’s league and women’s league share the same sponsor, SSE Airtricity.
Women’s sport has faced many challenges along the years but finally, things are looking up. We have a long way to go but deals like this are a good stepping stone to begin with.