Arsenal and England defender Leah Williamson says the Women’s Super League broadcast deal gives the game ‘an exciting platform’ after years of fighting for coverage.
Sky Sports is replacing BT Sport as the division’s primary broadcaster and will be showing WSL football for the first time, with games also set to be broadcast for free on BBC One and BBC Two for the next three seasons.
It’s been described as a ‘game-changing’ and ‘transformational’ mainstream deal for the women’s game and is believed to be the biggest in domestic women’s football worldwide.
Speaking on Women’s Football Weekly on talkSPORT 2, Williamson said: “It’s the best news we could have. We’ve worked hard, from a players’ perspective, to raise the quality of the game, to commit to being professional athletes and making that show on the pitch.
“To now be given a platform like this, after so many years of fighting for every piece of coverage, because that’s what it feels like on a daily basis, to be given the platform now and the place the women’s game is in is so exciting.
“I can’t emphasise how lucky I feel to be involved at this time.”
It is understood Sky Sports have agreed an investment of just under £10million per season, including production, with additional marketing and exposure commitments taking the figure to around £15m per season.
The broadcaster 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 BBC One and BBC Two. Previously, games had been shown live by the BBC on iPlayer 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 Women’s Championship, with the split being 75 per cent [to WSL] to 25 per cent.
FA’s director of the women’s professional game Kelly Simmons also joined Women’s Football Weekly and spoke about the deal that will mean so much to the WSL and its development.
“It’s a fantastic day and some great coverage of what is a landmark moment for the women’s game, multimillion partnership, up to 66 live games across Sky and the BBC,” Simmons said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to massively raise the fanbase of the women’s game. It’s what the players deserve, the fans deserve and what the pioneers have fought so hard to get the game where it is today.
“It’s great to see and see the announcement received so well across the game.
“We always thought a mix of free-to-air and pay-per-view was the right strategy for the women’s game to drive revenue, much needed revenue for the game but also huge exposure.
“The BBC partnership gives us the opportunity to have audiences that would make the Women’s Super League the most watched league, after the Premier League.
“The partnership with Sky and what they’ve done for the men’s game and what they can do for the women’s game is huge.
“We think we’ll be the most watched women’s football league in the world and it will be a significant breakthrough for the development of the Women’s Super League.”