USWNT superstar and two-time World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe has described the new Women’s Super League television deal as an ‘incredible’ step forward for the league’s development, with money and exposure now set to take the WSL to the next level in the coming years.
The broadcast deal, which runs for four years from the start of the 2021/22 campaign, is worth in the region of £7m per season, with 75% of that revenue to be invested back into WSL clubs. Over 60 games each season will be live on Sky Sports or BBC channels.
It is a massive and important change from the existing system, where most games are free on the still relatively little-known FA Player service, and broadcasters for a handful of selected TV games only pay to cover their own production costs.
“To get the women onto TV consistently, to get their game out there, is just going to be incredible,” Rapinoe told 90min. “The huge influx of cash as well, obviously the 75% split with money going back into the clubs to invest in coaches, players, resources, training grounds and everything, I think is incredible. Congratulations there, that is going to be a huge step for that league.”
WSL broadcast rights were sold internationally for the first time to networks in Scandinavia and Latin Central America in 2019, bringing in a six-figure sum. But this is the first time a WSL TV package has been sold in the UK and it is a lucrative and timely boost for clubs to create a new source of income.
The launch of the men’s Premier League was driven by TV money way back in 1992 and it has reached new heights as the wealthiest football league in the world by far thanks to fresh explosions of cash over the last 10 years.
“People ask me all the time what I think is going to help grow the [women’s] leagues and I say it every time: it’s money, it’s cash,” Rapinoe explains.
“Money to be able to hire front office people that are very talented and at the level the team needs, to hire ticket people, to hire coaches, to invest in the technological infrastructure of the team, to invest in GPS programmes, to invest in sports science people…all of that.
“That is such a huge thing that is lost in women’s sports and doesn’t really get talked about a lot. You talk about men’s sports…everybody watches, everybody thinks it’s popular…well, yeah, because there have been billions of dollars of investment.”
Rapinoe suggests the constant exposure of male sports stars contributes to the popularity of those sports because people are always aware of when the games are on and can become invested. It is not the same for women’s leagues, but things like the WSL TV deal in England will change that.
“[Men’s sport] is all over the place, it is constantly in our face, we know when the games are. We know that Saturday or Sunday mornings [in the U.S.] are the Premier League and we know what channel they’re on,” the 2019 Ballon d’Or winner explained.
“You have to give people a groundwork. You have to be Sherlock Holmes to find [women’s] games sometimes. You don’t know what day, you don’t know what station or time, it changes all the time, the commentator changes. It is really difficult, even for people who want to support.
“If it’s not a set structure where it is constantly in people’s minds, in people’s faces and easily accessible, then the same number of people are not going to watch the Women’s Super League as the Premier League.”
Megan Rapinoe is joining Smirnoff in its ongoing commitment to the Black community and partnership with SideBarre, a fitness studio and Black women-owned small business.
For Women’s History Month, Megan will join Smirnoff for the fourth and final of a series of complimentary inspirational virtual bar(re) classes from home in support of Black women entrepreneurs, followed by an intimate Q&A session and virtual happy hour with Smirnoff, SideBarre and their celebrity friends, mixing cocktails using Smirnoff Zero Sugar Infusions including the NEW Smirnoff Zero Sugar Infusions Lemon & Elderflower.
As part of the SideBarre partnership, Smirnoff will also pledge $50,000 to to Black Girl Ventures to support Black and Brown women-identifying business founders.