The BBC will premiere the Super League for Women on network TV television in a “turning point” three-year agreement.
From next season, the WSL games will be shown live on the BBC and Sky in a multi-million pound deal.
The remaining matches not selected for BBC or Sky broadcast will be shown live on FA Player.
The BBC will broadcast 22 matches live, with at least 18 shown on BBC One or BBC Two.
Kelly Simmons of the Football Association expects the agreement to give WSL a huge boost to the audience.
“It’s one of the biggest commercial deals, definitely for women’s football in terms of a domestic deal, and there for women’s sports,” she said.
“We have benchmarks for what we think are the most successful, prominent women’s sports leagues in the world such as the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) and NWSL (National Women’s Football Leagues), and they are hundreds of thousands in terms of the average peak per week.
“We assume this would be well above that.”
Sky Sports will provide coverage for up to 44 matches shown in major tournaments, Premier League and Sky Sports Football channels.
Contracts with both broadcasters will run until the summer of 2024.
England and Manchester City captain Steph Houghton told BBC Sport that it was an “incredible step forward” for women’s football and the players can’t wait to “show the world what an amazing league we have”.
“The way this sport has developed in this country over the last few years has been amazing,” she added.
“I think this will really encourage our league to be the best in Europe, if not in the world.”
What are the details of the broadcast?
- 22 live matches on BBC TV, including at least 18 on BBC One and BBC Two (remaining matches on Red Button and online)
- Up to 44 live matches, with at least 35, shown on Sky Sports Football, Premier League and Main Event channels
- Selected devices will also be simultaneous on Sky One and Sky Sports Mix
- All broadcasters will have the right to Internet coverage, clips during playback and highlights (WSL clubs also have rights to clips and highlights in the game)
- The remaining matches are not selected for live broadcast on FA Player
- There will be one free game on the BBC every weekend, and Sky will have two more choices
- Selected matches are expected to be scheduled on Friday 18:30 GMT, Saturday 11:30 GMT, Sunday 12:30 GMT and Sunday 18:30 GMT
- 75% of the investment income goes to WSL clubs, 25% to the women’s championship
‘A turning point for WSL’
Simmons, director of the women’s professional game at the FA, said the agreement merged two main priorities for the FA: increasing the visibility of the WSL, as well as attracting investment to further develop the league’s quality.
“We just desperately want more and better. It’s always about working forward and trying to fix things we’re not happy with. This feels like one of those real moments for a change in women’s play,” Simmons said.
“The job we’re doing now will be to project those future revenues down the price. We’ve always told clubs to believe and invest, and now this is going to be the beginning of realizing that the game can make money and [move away from] reliance, long-term, on male play.
“It’s going to be extremely visible next season. I’m sure it’s going to inspire thousands and thousands of girls to play that game, so I just can’t wait.”
Kathryn Swarbrick, FA’s commercial and marketing director, added: “This is a moment to celebrate – a turning point in the WSL future – with just amazing prospects.
“That reach, combined with this huge investment in the game, makes us really confident that this will be a big leap forward in achieving our ambition to have the best domestic women’s professional league in the world.”
How is business compared globally?
The FA said it expects the audience figure to be “significantly above” the most successful and highest “women’s domestic sports leagues in the world.
They also said that it was “definitely” the biggest commercial broadcast in women’s football.
“We will broadcast more games live, reach a larger audience and bring in more revenue than any other domestic women’s league in the world,” Swarbrick said.
“I think that’s pretty much proof of the strength of the product that’s now WSL.”
“We attract players from all over the world, but at the same time English players in this league are being tested against the best,” Houghton said.
“The standard of the league is increasing, mainly because people train regularly.
“It’s probably just the last few years – since the 2015 World Cup – I think it’s spread so fast. Being at the heart of it is really special.”