Premier League moves closer to Women’s Super League takeover

3 July 2019 | Clubs & Rightsholders
Premier League moves closer to Women’s Super League takeover
The Premier League, the body for English men’s soccer’s top flight, is edging closer to taking over the Women’s Super League (WSL), the women’s equivalent, from the Football Association (FA), according to BBC Sport.

According to the report, the Premier League clubs have unanimously agreed to conduct a feasibility study into the proposition following talks that have been ongoing with the English national soccer body for the past six months. However, any takeover could be several seasons away from completion with no set timeframe proposed as of yet.

The FA’s reasons for considering the proposition reportedly lie in its desire to focus on women’s soccer via the national teams and grassroots participation.

The WSL was set up in 2011 by the FA, which oversaw its development to become Europe’s sole full-time, 12-team professional competition for the 2019/20 season.

Premier League-affiliated clubs make up 13 of the 22 sides in the women’s top two soccer divisions, with BBC Sport reporting that some of them want the WSL to be run more professionally to better increase growth on the pitch and off it with better sponsorship and broadcasting deals.

That said, the FA enjoyed commercial success in women’s soccer over the last year. England’s run semi-final run to the Women’s World Cup came after a carefully choreographed marketing campaign to raise the profile of the Lionesses. The WSL will no doubt see a bump in interest as a result and is also set to enter the first year of a UK£10 million (US$12.5 million) title-sponsorship deal with Barclays that runs through 2022. The bank and financial services company is also the title sponsor of the Premier League.

The FA has received criticism, notably from Chelsea women’s boss Emma Hayes, for the way it structured the league season, where there has often been big gaps between fixtures.

Most teams also operate at a loss, with the top-three placed sides last season – Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea – all relying on significant financial support from their men’s teams.

Though attendances have fallen below an average of 1,000 last season, plans are afoot to address the issue. Those reportedly include playing multiple matches at Premier League stadiums on the opening weekend of the WSL 2019/20 season.

In 2018, the FA announced plans to increase their investment in women’s and girls’ football by a further UK£50 million (US$62 million) over six years. The national soccer body is also halfway through its four-year Gameplan For Growth strategy, which aims to increase participation and create a high-performance system for England teams.

Should such a handover be completed then the FA will be under to pressure to ensure it avoids the pitfalls when it lost so much control to the Premier League when it allowed the breakaway of the men’s top-flight in 1992. That deal ultimately saw contributions as a percentage to the men’s lower-leagues and the grassroots game fall.

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