'WSL TV deal a huge step forwards,' says Manchester United boss Stoney

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Manchester United manager Casey Stoney believes the  ground-breaking TV deal for women’s football could provide a significant boost to the popularity of the sport © Action Images via Reuters
Manchester United manager Casey Stoney believes the ground-breaking TV deal for women’s football could provide a significant boost to the popularity of the sport © Action Images via Reuters

Manchester United boss Casey Stoney believes the ground-breaking TV deal for women’s football could be the catalyst for a meteoric rise in the popularity of the sport.

The FA announced last week that a multi-million pound deal with Sky Sports and the BBC had been agreed for broadcast rights of the Women’s Super League for the next three seasons - said to be around £8m per year.

Sky Sports will be showcasing 44 of the women’s top tier matches from the start of the 2021/22 season, while the BBC will be showing 22 live games on free-to-air television - with viewing numbers expected to go through the roof when accessibility improves.

And former England international Stoney believes the deal will help to inspire the next generation of football fans across the country, with the pinnacle of the women’s game on offer to everyone.

“I think it’s a momentous occasion for the women’s game, in terms of having Sky and BBC so it can be visible by all,” the Red Devils boss said.

“They’ve always excelled in terms of sports broadcasting and I hope they do the same for the women’s game in terms of the build-up you get, the analysis, how they break the games down.

“I’m a mum, I always look at my girls and think ‘right they can see it now’. If they can see it they can be it and they can actually dream about it.

“The broadcast deal is brilliant and hopefully it’ll encourage lots more girls to pick up a ball, lots more teams to be run, lots more schools to run girls’ teams, lots more people to invest in the women’s game.”

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As well as the added exposure that the new broadcasting deal will bring, there will also be the increased revenue for Women’s Super League clubs, as well as women’s football across the country.

A portion of the money will be used for central investments within the game, including the development of refereeing, while WSL clubs will receive 75% and the Championship sides will get a 25% share.

With that added windfall the game is all set to flourish in the years to come, with the money likely to be spent on improving the infrastructure at clubs, as well as attracting the top talents of the global game to ply their trade in England.

The deal was a ground-breaking moment not just in this country but around the world, with The FA expecting viewing figures to be significantly above the majority of women's domestic sport leagues in the world.

With one free-to-air game live on television every weekend, women’s football fans all over the country can get their fix week after week, and Stoney believes it is testament to how far the game has come recently.

“It’s fantastic for the women’s game and I think it shows how far the women’s game has come in this country in the last five, six years. It’s credit to the FA for getting those people involved,” she said.

“We’ve always spoken about visibility and awareness in the women’s game, and by Sky and BBC coming on board I think it’ll raise the visibility.

“We just keep pushing boundaries, raising the bar and I have the responsibility as a coach to do that too.”