25 Mar 21

We just love the buzz surrounding The FA’s eagerly anticipated announcement that the BBC and Sky are to become the new broadcasters of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League (WSL) from the 2021-22 season. The scope and size of the deal is expected to further establish the WSL as arguably the best women’s football league in the world, attracting top players and coaches.

The deal should create vast opportunities for women’s football as we give a flavour to below. It is undoubtedly an exciting time for all those currently involved, and those looking to become involved, in the game. For the Game
  • Increased visibility and more eyes on the game, in particular given the BBC’s large audience and the sport receiving the “full Sky Sports treatment” (lengthy build-ups, reaction and daily narrative), helping the WSL to become the most-watched women’s football league in the world.
  • The increased professional analysis of player performance and the positive impact this has on the development of players and coaches as well as growing their public profiles.
  • Investment from the deal being used for longer-term projects, including to improve and develop infrastructure such as academies, player pathway, referees, pitches and medical equipment - all of which will be key to the further professionalisation of the game.
  • Providing young players with visible role models and establishing their career aspirations as players, coaches, physiotherapists, broadcasters and the many other roles within the game.
  • Prompting others into action – women’s football around the globe will be following developments closely.
For Rightsholders (including Governing Bodies, Clubs and Players)
  • The increase in the “unbundling” of women’s rights from the men’s game and marketing women’s football as a unique and standalone proposition that is attractive to investment in its own right (noting that this is the first time that the broadcasting rights for the WSL have been sold separately to the men’s game).
  • Introducing new revenue streams and capitalising on the opportunity to work together with sponsors, brands and other partners to shape the future of the sport without alienating traditional football fanbases.
  • Players having the platform to tell their stories and securing more lucrative endorsement and sponsorship deals of their own with brands that wish to showcase the player’s life off the pitch too.
  • Accelerating other commercial opportunities, whether that be players individually or, for example, football-related gaming companies featuring women’s clubs in the future.
For Sponsors, Brands and Commercial Partners
  • Shirt sponsorship and hoardings at stadiums becoming a premium asset – for example, it presents a rare opportunity to advertise a brand on the BBC, and bidding rights are expected (which are not currently prevalent).
  • Women’s football being a much more commercially viable option for potential brands, sponsors and partners (and not just a box ticking exercise).
  • A range of new brands entering the marketplace, including those that wouldn’t necessarily consider football as a target market, as the game enters into a new chapter.
  • For existing brands involved in women’s football (such as title sponsor Barclays), providing opportunities for new partnerships and being creative when retendering for rights.
For Broadcasters and the Media                                                                       
  • Paving the way for other broadcasters to realise the value in bidding for such broadcasting rights moving forward, given this real statement of intent from both the BBC and Sky Sports at a time when budgets remain under pressure from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Introducing new and existing fans of both women’s and men’s football to the world of the WSL through promotional activities.
  • The increasing analysis by the broadcasters is likely to prompt wider coverage across other media, including print.

What’s the deal?  In case you missed it, our headlines of this “landmark” broadcast deal are:
  • A three-year multi-million pound deal (reportedly worth between £7m-£8m per season).
  • Sky Sports has the right to show up to 44 matches, with a minimum of 35 being shown on its three main football channels (Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Football).
  • BBC will show 22 live games per season, with at least 18 being shown on BBC One and BBC Two.
  • All remaining games will be available on The FA Player (The FA’s free to subscribe OTT platform).
  • Revenue will be distributed between the WSL and the Championship 75:25.
  • The FA understands it is the largest broadcasting deal in women’s football globally.

Harriet Leach (Senior Associate) email: harriet.leach@onsidelaw.co.uk Hannah Kent (Associate) email: hannah.kent@onsidelaw.co.uk For more information please contact Harriet or Hannah.
Harriet Leach

Legal Director