After a unanimously agreed by clubs to conduct a feasibility study into the idea at a shareholders’ meeting last month, and in the wake of the massive impact made by England during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the English Premier League has moved a step closer to taking over the Women’s Super League from the Football Association.
It follows recent talks between the Premier League and FA, but no timeframe has yet been proposed.
The FA, who set up the WSL in 2011, has overseen its development, seeing the WSL becoming the only full-time professional competition with 12 teams for 2019-20 with Premier League-affiliated clubs making up 13 of the 22 sides in the women’s top two divisions, with the top flight securing a £10m sponsorship deal with Barclays.
Attendances, though, have dropped below an average of 1,000, and some Premier League clubs now feel there is significant scope for growth in sponsorship and broadcasting deals, especially after England reaching the World Cup semi-final – which was watched by record television audiences.
A spokesperson for the FA said: “We can confirm that we are supporting the Premier League in exploring the long-term feasibility of the Premier League running the Women’s Super League. This is a purely exploratory project and based on a long term timescale”.
Continuing, the spokesperson said: “The FA is proud that it set up the first European women’s professional league and the relevant player pathways as part of its commitment to growing the women’s game. We have recently established a joint WSL/Women’s Championship Board with the clubs to oversee the future strategy and policy of the professional game.
“It is this Board that will recommend the best way forward to The FA as it determines what is in the best interests of the leagues. However, The FA has always been clear that it is open to an external body running the WSL in the long term, as The FA’s remit is to support the game from grassroots to elite teams.”
Further to that, it is also understands that talks are ongoing about the possibility of playing multiple matches at Premier League stadiums on the opening weekend of the 2019-20 WSL season, which starts on Saturday, September 7 – during an international break for the men’s sides.
Any possible takeover, though, could still be several seasons away.