The FA has announced that Sky Sports and the BBC have gained the media rights to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League in a new ‘multi-million pound’ deal.
The league is currently broadcast on the BBC and BT Sport, while the new three-year agreement - starting in September 2021 - will see Sky Sports become the Primary Broadcaster, with the BBC continuing to screen games on free-to-air TV.
Sky Sports says the WSL will become one of its ‘flagship offerings’, and has acquired the right to screen up to 44 live matches per season, with at least 35 shown exclusively live and across its Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Football channels. The BBC, meanwhile, will broadcast 22 live games, with a minimum of 18 to be on BBC One or BBC Two. The remaining fixtures will be available on The FA Player.
The matches selected for broadcast by the two outlets are expected to be scheduled on Friday evenings and late Saturday mornings, with Sunday lunchtime and evening kick-offs also set to take place. According to the league, some 75% of investment revenue will go to WSL clubs, with 25% to the Women's Championship.
“We’re delighted to welcome Sky Sports and to extend our relationship with the BBC as our domestic broadcast partners from the 2021-22 season in what is a game-changing agreement that will transform the WSL,” said Kelly Simmons, Director of the Women’s Professional Game, The FA.
“Visibility and investment are such key factors in growing any women’s sport, and we are delighted that Sky Sports and the BBC have made a commitment to broadcast more live women’s football than we have ever seen before, while signifying its true value.”
Kathryn Swarbrick, The FA’s Director of Commercial and Marketing, added: “We are absolutely thrilled to have secured this game-changing partnership with Sky Sports and the BBC that will support taking the women’s game to another level.
“Both broadcasters have a vision for women’s football that very much aligns with our own, and that was made clear during the tender process where they outlined some very exciting plans for showcasing the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. We are really looking forward to working with them.”
The deal, which saw media rights agency the Women’s Sports Group - founded by Dame Heather Rabbatts and media rights expert David Kogan - act as exclusive advisors to The FA, represents the first unbundled media rights tender process for women’s football, sold separately to the governing body’s men’s competitions for the first time.
Rob Webster, Managing Director of Sky Sports, said: “We are delighted to add the WSL to our expanding football portfolio. Our goal is to bring our customers more of what they love, and we are certain the league will be a success with our football-hungry viewers.
“We will be giving the WSL the full Sky Sports treatment with lengthy build-ups and reaction to all live matches, plus a daily narrative of the league across Sky Sports News and our digital platforms.
“We look forward to working with the FA and building a close partnership that helps grow the women's game now and for future generations. With the addition of the WSL, Sky Sports truly is the home of football.”
Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said: “This is fantastic news for sports fans and for women’s football. We are delighted to offer the FA Women’s Super League a free-to-air platform to ensure the sport, and the players, connect with the widest possible audience.
"With UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 on the horizon, giving fans more opportunities to watch the Barclays FA Women’s Super League will build the excitement for a home tournament.”
Sky Sports says it will now begin a recruitment process to put together a ‘best in class’ on and off-screen production team as part of the plan to align WSL with the broadcaster’s other big sporting leagues and events.
The news adds to the payTV broadcaster’s women’s sport portfolio, coming on the back of a recent deal with England Netball to screen the Vitality Netball Superleague, while the WSL will get the full Sky Sports treatment with lengthy build-ups and reaction to all live matches’.
The BBC, meanwhile, will add enhanced WSL coverage to its platforms in the build up to the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022, which is set to take place in England next summer.