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Report: Most WSL clubs opposed to Premier League takeover

English women’s teams believe independence would result in more holistic approach.

15 July 2020 Sam Carp

Getty Images

  • WSL clubs fear playing ‘second fiddle’ to men’s league if takeover went through
  • Teams think Premier League would prioritise commercialisation over development
  • Richard Masters said in June that WSL takeover is something he “would like to do”

The majority of clubs in the Women’s Super League (WSL) would prefer the top-flight soccer division to be run independently rather than taken over by the Premier League, according to the Guardian.

The Premier League has been linked with assuming control of the WSL from national governing body the Football Association (FA)  since last July, when it was reported that England’s top-flight men’s league was edging closer to a takeover of its female equivalent.

It was then reported in February that the Premier League would revisit the idea of a takeover in a year after presenting its clubs with the findings of a feasibility study into the proposition.

However, according to the Guardian, the 12 WSL clubs believe that independent leadership would result in a more holistic approach towards the growth of the women’s game.

The British daily said there is a fear among the 12 WSL clubs that the women’s competition would play ‘second fiddle’ to the Premier League were a takeover to go through.

The report added that while the WSL would benefit from greater financial investment, the clubs believe the Premier League’s focus would predominantly be on commercialising the competition, rather than carrying on the wider work done by the FA in areas such as coach and player development and dual career pathways.

It was also noted by the Guardian that the FA will only hand over control of the WSL when the league is financially secure, with the league’s next domestic television deal key to determining if that is the case.

In March, the FA enlisted the Women’s Sports Group agency to support the next domestic media rights sales process for the WSL in an attempt to monetise those rights for the first time. The league’s current UK broadcast partners, BT Sport and the BBC, reportedly do not pay the FA a rights fee for coverage of the WSL, covering production costs instead.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters reiterated to members of parliament (MPs) on 30th June at a UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee evidence session that assuming responsibility for the WSL is something he “would like to do”, but that there was a collective agreement among clubs that “now wasn’t the right time”.

Masters also revealed that the Premier League has committed around UK£1 million to help the 2020/21 WSL season get underway after the 2019/20 campaign had to be ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the last year we have had lots of dialogue with the FA and with our own clubs about the Premier League, at some point in the future, assuming responsibility for the professional game,” Masters said in June.

“We decided collectively, that’s the Premier League and the FA together, and the WSL and Women’s Championship boards, that now wasn’t the right time, but we will return to that topic at some point in the near future.”

He added: “We obviously want the women’s game to be successful, which is why we are helping them and why we have engaged in those discussions with the FA about assuming responsibility for it.

“From a personal perspective, I think it is something I would like to do in the future for this organisation – not being just responsible for the top of the pyramid in terms of the men’s game but also the women’s game.”

Any decision on a takeover will ultimately be made by the Women’s Super League and Championship board, which comprises six club representatives, three from the FA and three independent performance and commercial experts, including an independent chair. 

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