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WSL confirms “game-changing” domestic TV deal with BBC and Sky Sports

Pay-TV broadcaster to part with around UK£15m a season in record-breaking agreement.

22 March 2021 PA

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  • Contract believed to represent the biggest domestic TV deal for a professional women's soccer league  
  • Top-flight WSL teams to receive 75% of revenue, with remaining 25% going to second-tier Women's Championship
  • Sky Sports, which replaces BT Sport as WSL's primary broadcaster, has right to show up to 44 matches per season
  • Minimum of 18 games per year to air on BBC One and BBC Two

English soccer's Football Association (FA) has announced a “game-changing” new domestic broadcast deal for the Women’s Super League that will see matches shown by pay-TV network Sky Sports and public service broadcaster the BBC over the next three seasons.

Sky Sports, which will be showing WSL soccer for the first time, is replacing BT Sport as the top-tier division’s primary broadcaster.

The PA news agency understands the investment from Sky Sports is just under UK£10 million (US$13.8 million) per season, including production, with additional marketing and exposure commitments taking the figure to around UK£15 million (US$20.8 million) per season.

Sky Sports has the right to show up to 44 matches per season, with a minimum of 35 being screened.

The BBC has committed to showcasing 22 live games per season, with a minimum of 18 on its flagship BBC One and BBC Two free-to-air linear channels. Previously, games have been shown live by the BBC on the iPlayer streaming platform and the 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 second-tier Women’s Championship, with the split being 75 per cent (WSL) to 25 per cent.

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 in terms of a domestic deal.”

She said: “This is a landmark deal, not just for the WSL but the whole of the women’s game.

“It’s really going to help us to grow and engage our fanbase. It is bringing in vital new commercial revenue into the league and clubs. And, most importantly in some ways, it’s providing a fantastic platform to inspire girls and women to play the game.

“This partnership provides a wonderful platform on which to deliver on our ambitions and really to put the WSL at the global forefront of the women’s game.

“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.”

Asked if she believed it was the biggest deal in women’s domestic sports history, Simmons said: “(It is) I think the biggest deal commercially for women’s football in terms of a domestic deal, and up there with women’s sport.

“And then in terms of the audience piece, the biggest for women’s sport, definitely.”

Simmons said that as well as going to clubs, money would be used for “central investments, new strategic investments, including refereeing”.

Games not on Sky Sports or the BBC will be shown live via the FA Player, the governing body’s free streaming platform.

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