Chelsea manager Emma Hayes says the Women’s Super League’s new broadcast deal with Sky Sports will provide “the elevation that the women’s game needs”.
Sky Sports has announced a three-year deal with the FA to become the primary broadcaster of the WSL from September 2021.
The deal will see Sky Sports show at least 35 games exclusively live per season and further strengthens the broadcaster’s commitment to women’s sport.
Hayes, whose Chelsea side are top of the current WSL standings, says the deal is a watershed moment in the women’s game and the “perfect marriage” between the league and a broadcasting partner committed to championing women’s sport will elevate the division to a new level.
“This is a day that everyone has been looking forward to, the announcement of a really strong broadcast partner that will help give us the viewership and exposure that the women’s game has earned,” she told Sky Sports News.
“There’s no better platform than to be with Sky. Sky will bring the elevation that the women’s game needs. It’s a partner that is taking women’s sport very seriously and football tops that agenda. I hope we can bring new viewers to them with the quality we produce. It’s a perfect marriage.
“I think the game has come far since 2012, both as a product on the pitch and the numbers that we are drawing to our games, through attendance and TV figures.
“The rise has been exponential and one that we can continue to see the upward trend. People are getting used to women’s football on their screens, so as long as the quality of the product is high, we’ll draw fans to the sport.”
Hayes also says the buzz of the announcement has filtered into the Chelsea dressing room, with players excited about the size of the platform they will soon enjoy and the level of exposure they will receive when featured on Sky’s football coverage.
“The players are talking about how important it is for us to be on the right platform for that exposure,” she revealed.
“We are all familiar with Sky and its reputation for football coverage. We expect nothing but the best from you guys and look forward to seeing ourselves on your screens on a regular basis.”
‘We want the spotlight and the scrutiny’
Manchester City and Lionesses captain Steph Houghton says the WSL players are desperate to experience the same spotlight, scrutiny and analysis that comes with marquee Premier League fixtures on Sky Sports.
She said: “I’m a big football fan and away from the pitch I watch Super Sundays and Monday Night Football and obviously I have done some punditry with yourselves.
“I know how much Sky invest heavily into the women’s game now and how much they want to push it forward.
“Everybody relates the biggest games with being live on Sky Sports and I think it will be the same for the women’s game. A broadcast partner like Sky to come in and invest, it will raise the profile of the game, the players.”
When asked if she is ready for an increase in pressure and attention, Houghton replied: “That’s what we want, we want to be under that spotlight and have the scrutiny. Team performances are the most important but individual performances will also be highlighted, whether that is good or bad.
“I watch Sky Sports News regularly and see the analysis of games on a regular basis, that’s the level we want. We want to be spoken about just because we are footballers.”
Manchester United’s Lucy Staniforth concurs, adding that she wants to see high-level analysis at the tactical and technical parts of the game.
“I want to see those people in the studio critiquing our games and maybe that’s a part of women’s football that is missing at the moment is that high-level analysis and specific programmes that are aimed at looking at tactical and technical elements of games.
“Every football fan loves Monday Night Football and Super Sunday so if we can have a female version then that would be fantastic.”
Weir: WSL will reach a new generation
Manchester City and Scotland’s Caroline Weir says every WSL goal, moment of skill or in-depth analysis segment will be able to reach far more people due to the rolling coverage of Sky Sports News and Sky Sports’ highly-engaged social media platforms.
“It is going to highlight all the positives that we see in the women’s game that probably don’t reach enough people. Obviously, they are reaching a lot more people but with Sky, it is going to give that extra boost and bring it up a notch.
“It is hopefully going to showcase all the positives in the women’s game. Goals etc… It is all about exposure, growing the game and pushing it forward onto these next levels.
“Of course, we want to show the positives, but we also want to be critiqued. We want people to have an opinion on the game whether that is positive or maybe constructive. But as a player that is what you want. As a person watching the football, I really enjoy the analysis at half-time and the pundits discussing different points.
“I think it is going to be a really interesting dimension to add to the women’s game, something we have not really seen before. It is only going to help the women’s game grow and go up another level.”