Women’s Super League matches have attracted an average combined peak audience of almost one million across Sky Sports and the BBC in the opening five weeks of the season.
The peak averages were 318,400 on Sky and 668,000 on the BBC, the Football Association said as it launched a three-year strategy for the women’s professional game that includes targeting average match attendances of 6,000.
“We have a fantastic opportunity with Sky and BBC to build that awareness and signpost fans back,” said Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of the women’s professional game. “We are averaging around 2,200 in the WSL at the moment and pre-Covid it was about 3,000 but that was skewed by some really big attendances off the back of the Women’s World Cup, so when you pull those out we’re back to where we were. We obviously want to keep building on that. Fans have not been able to come to games for some time so we have to recreate that habit.”
Also targeted are financially sustainable WSL and Championship structures within the next five years. Whereas the sustainability of clubs is a longer-term aim amid rising player wages and club ambitions, it is believed that five years is a realistic goal for the leagues.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on the predicted future revenues and where we would want to invest and where that might break even,” Simmons said.
The FA is reviewing league ownership and although the chair of the WSL and Women’s Championship board, Dawn Airey, said they were “some way off” a decision on the leagues’ future she added that she “would anticipate that within the next couple of years that it will change”.
“We realise that as the leagues become more successful and as the amount of money coming in to women’s sport is increasing, it would benefit from a real focus and potentially be a standalone new company,” she said. “We are some way off from reaching a decision on the future of the leagues, in terms of the structure and how it’s run but it is a very active conversation and is being done hand in glove with clubs.
“It’s all about focus, investment and getting a league that is already very strong to become that world leader. To be a world leader you have to be financially sustainable and profitable too so we’re very very focused on that.”