The Football Association is planning to sell the domestic media rights for the Women’s Super League for the first time after years of showing its matches for free.
In a sign of growing confidence in the FA about the progress of the women’s game, the governing body is consulting with media rights management specialists Women’s Sports Group ahead of the new round of bargaining for the 2021-22 season and beyond. All FA-controlled women’s football club and national team fixtures would be available for tender.
The FA has never before attempted to monetise the television rights for the elite level of women’s football in this country. Since the WSL’s launch in 2011, the FA has given WSL coverage to the BBC and BT Sport for free, with the broadcasters covering production costs, in an effort to chase the largest possible audience over potential TV rights revenue.
It is understood that the FA saw this as a successful deal at the time, given a number of women’s sports were paying broadcasters for coverage. The governing body introduced the FA Player, its free streaming service covering every WSL game, ahead of the 2019-20 season.
WSG was founded in October by Dame Heather Rabbatts, the first female non-executive director of the FA and a former member of Fifa’s anti-discrimination task force, and David Kogan. Media rights consultant Kogan co-founded Reel Enterprises, which says it has overseen more than £20 billion of sports rights sales for the Premier League, English Football League, Uefa and the NFL among others.
Rabbatts said: “The next round of media rights for women’s football is hugely important to the long-term success of the game. There has been great momentum within women’s football since last summer’s World Cup, where over one billion views were recorded. We will be looking to build on this to further elevate the value of women’s sport.”
Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of the women’s professional game, said: “Women’s Sports Group are in a perfect position to help us take the Barclays FA Women’s Super League to the next level.”
According to figures released by the FA in November, TV audiences for women’s football have grown following the World Cup. BT Sport’s average peak audience for its WSL coverage was 85,000, while the BBC’s online and red button services averaged peak audiences of 285,000.
By November, the BBC’s Women’s Football Show was averaging an audience of just over one million.