The Women’s Super League is targeting becoming the first women’s football division to generate £1billion ($1.2bn) in revenue.
The league’s chair, Dawn Airey, says the WSL has plans to hit that milestone in the next decade.
The 62-year-old called on clubs and the league to “be more imaginative” with the matchday going experience as part of the bid to continue boosting revenue.
“One of the stated goals that we have is to make this league the first billion-pound women’s league in the world, that is league revenue, and club revenue and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it,” Airey said. “So that’s our goal.
“That isn’t the figure we just plucked from the air, it is based on a pretty decent and detailed business plan over the course of the next 10 years.
“We look at the growth of attendances, we look at the growth of engagement and broadcast, we look at the increased interest from sponsorship and marketing opportunities, and then we start being more imaginative about what does attending a women’s game mean?
“Not just watching the game, but everything that goes on around it, there is potential for clubs to think differently about their revenues.”
Airey also confirmed that the English FA intends to transfer the running of the WSL and Championship over to a new company — currently referred to as ‘NewCo’ — in time for the 2024-25 season. The FA has run the WSL since the league’s formation in 2010.
“We’ve been working on the structure of it for the last few years, but we’ve been working particularly closely for around eight months, with some select CEOs of the Super League and Championship, that represent both leagues, to try and get the right structures in place,” she added.
“Have we got the right finance? Can we establish this independent body to run and manage the leagues that’s properly financed? So we’re working on the finances. We’re working on the governance, how are decisions made? Then there’s the issues of: what are the protections that the FA rightly wants to put in place before these leads are handed over?
“We are making good progress, because this has to be resolved before we go into the next season, 24-25, because that is the timetable that we’ve committed to.”
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There has been no change to the WSL’s top four since Manchester United’s promotion in 2019, with United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City consistently finishing in the league’s highest places.
Clubs across the top two divisions have varying levels of resources and investment: Reading, who finished bottom of the WSL last season, have gone part-time following their relegation to the Championship, while Arsenal, Chelsea, City and United have all spent six-figure transfer fees on players during the last three summer windows.
Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football, admitted a form of financial fair play approach needed to be considered to keep the league competitive.
“There certainly needs to be a fair play approach to it,” she said. “Yeah, no question.
“When you look down that league, and you talk maybe to the chief execs at some of the Super League clubs to lower down, they’re nervous about investing any more, because they can’t see when it stops. So if you’re constantly investing and every time you invest, they go again, and then they go again, and then they go again.
“What we don’t want it to be is just a few very rich clubs. And to be fair to the CEOs of those clubs, they don’t want it and they’ve been really good at sitting at the table and saying we recognise the league (dominated by) four (teams) isn’t going to be sellable to broadcasters and isn’t going to be commercially attractive.”
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(Photo: Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)