Free-to-air TV coverage ‘critical’ for women’s football sponsorship – FA’s Simmons

Free-to-air TV coverage will be “critical” for the continued growth of women’s football sponsorship, according to the director of the women’s game in England.

After the most successful women’s World Cup to date this summer, industry insiders believe ongoing free-to-air TV coverage will be crucial to harness the growing “momentum” of the women’s game and turn into further growth in Women’s Super League sponsorship revenue.

Speaking at the Sports Decision Makers Summit in London, Kelly Simmons MBE, director of the women’s professional game at the Football Association, said: “We’ve got to get as many eyeballs on the game and as big an audience as possible.

“That says to me free-to-air will be a critical part of that strategy, whether that’s a mixed model of free-to-air and pay-TV, whichever is the best revenue model.”

This year’s women’s World Cup was unprecedented in TV viewership. In the UK, England’s semi-final match against the USA was the most-watched programme of the year so far, attracting an audience of 11.7 million. The BBC estimated that 65 per cent of viewers were male, and 35 were female.

Simmons said continued free-to-air coverage of the women’s game will help to drive value and attract larger and longer-term investment from sponsors.

Barclays three-year title sponsorship of the Women’s Super League, for example, is worth more than £10m per year for the FA. Joining Simmons on the panel, Y Sport managing partner Sally Horrox said its was club deals that offer the most likely route for sponsorship growth.

Horrox said it was likely that a women’s football club deal would break the $1m per year value barrier very soon – and that such a deal would likely be in the apparel segment.