NEW GOALS SET FOR WOMEN’S FOOTBALL
THE WEDNESDAY FEATURE
Women’s football is on the rise.
With a new TV deal for the FA Women’s Super League, worth upwards of £25million, and rising interest among media and sponsors, the women’s game is in the best shape it has ever been.
It was estimated that well over a billion people watched the 2019 Women’s World Cup, with the BBC reporting more than 28 million people watched their coverage of the tournament.
ICM Stellar Sports have an Elite Women’s Sports division, which is headed by sports agent Laura Doyle, with the football section of this now overseen by England star Lianne Sanderson.
Lianne, who won 50 caps for her country and played for a range of top clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and Juventus, said she was excited at the prospect of being able to boost the women’s game.
Lianne said: “The chance to really make a difference to the woman’s game is a very exciting opportunity and one that I fully intend to make my own.
“Women’s football is finally getting the visibility and support it deserves and while we are a very long way off from matching the sort of deals you see in the Premier League things are moving slowly in the right direction.
“What women football players really need is protection. At the moment a lot of players are having to negotiate their own contracts, which puts them at a big disadvantage and often they can feel pressured to agreeing things.
“Agents do so much more for clients than negotiate transfers; it’s about mentoring, helping with mental health, taking up commercial opportunities, making sure they can concentrate about football and not have to worry about a million other things. Having proper representation will really start to challenge that inequality.”
Lianne added that one of her chief aims was to help women’s football continue its growth, following recent TV deals with Sky and the BBC. The satellite broadcaster has the right show up to 44 Women’s Super League matches per season over the next three years, with the BBC to show 22 live games each year.
The FA’s director of the women’s professional game, Kelly Simmons, believes the deal will make the WSL the most watched women’s sport league in the world and predicted a big influx in new fans. Part of the money will be invested strategically to improve the game, including refereeing.
Until now, women’s football was packaged in with broadcast rights for the men’s game but the new deal not only sees a big injection of cash over three years but also a structure that will see 75% of the investment revenue to go to WSL clubs, with 25% to the second-tier FA Women’s Championship.
This is an important detail that has not gone unnoticed by Lianne.
“There’s a big gap in the resources of different clubs that needs to be addressed and one of my aims is to help players in the WSL2,” she added. “There’s lots of great players who have to hold down full-time jobs on top of playing, it would be great if we could help that league become stronger.
So while it is bright times for women’s soccer, what of other elite female sports? Football will be the initial focus of the division but, as Laura Doyle explains, plans are underway to move into other sports such as rugby and cricket.
Laura said: “There is a revolution going on in women’s sport that is pulling in fans, media and sponsors. Everything from investment in schools and the grassroots to the big broadcast deals and the success of the Women’s Super League and Champions League.
“The future looks very bright indeed, not only for players now but for the countless young girls who are being inspired to take up sport and dream of becoming a professional player.”
“ICM Stellar will help change elite women’s sport for the better and embracing diversity is at the core of our mission. It is all about working with the best and ensuring clients get the best representation so they can concentrate on their sport and entertaining fans.”