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FA to work with Women’s Sports Group on WSL’s next UK rights deal

The Football Association has appointed Women’s Sports Group, a new company set up last year to increase the profile of women’s sport, as its exclusive consultant on the sale of UK media rights to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.

Women’s Sports Group, which was launched by Dame Heather Rabbatts, chair of strategic communications agency Vero Communications, and media-rights consultant David Kogan, is to work with the FA on the sale of its rights from the 2021-22 season onwards.

Announcing the consultancy mandate today, Women’s Sports Group said: “The new round of media-rights sales for the 2021-22 football season onwards, which include all FA-controlled women’s football club and national team fixtures, comes as women’s football exposure continues to rise with participation levels increasing.”

Pay-television broadcaster BT Sport is the main domestic rights-holder to the league in a three-year deal running from 2018-19 to 2020-21. BT is showing at least 30 live matches this season from the WSL, FA Women’s Continental League Cup and the Women’s FA Cup. Public-broadcaster the BBC also holds rights to show one live match per week on BBC iPlayer, the ‘Red Button’ and streamed online.

BT and the BBC are not thought to pay rights fees in their current agreements, committing instead to covering the costs of production. However, the appointment of WSG, coupled with the increased attendances at WSL matches and boom in women’s football television audiences, is further evidence of a drive to secure rights fees this time around.

The consultancy process will be led by Kogan, who co-founded Reel Enterprises, which advertises itself as having overseen over £20bn (€22.5bn/$25.4bn) of sports rights sales for properties such as the Premier League, English Football League, Uefa, Premier Rugby, Six Nations and the NFL.

Rabbatts said: “The next round of media rights for women’s football is hugely important to the long-term success of the game. There has been great momentum within women’s football since last summer’s Fifa Women’s World Cup where over one-billion views were recorded and we will be looking to build on this to further elevate the value of women’s sport.

“Women’s Sports Group is delighted to work with The FA as we jointly look to drive value in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and women’s football more broadly.”

At the end of last year, the FA appointed the Pitch International agency to exclusively distribute worldwide broadcast rights to the WSL. Outside of the countries in which Pitch has secured WSL broadcast deals, there is live streaming available of matches on The FA Player, the association’s OTT platform. The service is offering free coverage of over 150 women’s football fixtures throughout the 2019-20 season.

Women’s Sports Group was set up to focus on strategic communications counsel, media-rights management and partnership development with the hope of further increasing the profile of women’s sport and continuing to grow its audiences.

The venture is closely aligned with Vero Communications, which is currently working on Australia’s bid for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.

Rabbatts served as the English Football Association’s first female non-executive director and board member from 2012 to 2017 and is a former member of Fifa’s Anti-Discrimination Taskforce.