The English Football Association (FA) has announced a deal for telecommunications firm BT to become one of the founding partners of a new commercial programme for women’s football from 2014-18.
BT has acquired rights for the FA Women’s Super League (WSL), the England women’s senior team and the FA Women’s Cup. In addition, BT Sport will exclusively broadcast WSL live matches across the season. The agreement was one of a series of announcements made by BT on Thursday as it revealed its plans for its new sports broadcast service, which aims to provide a serious rival for Sky Sports’ dominance of the UK market. The BT Sport service, which will provide live coverage of the English Premier League from this summer, will be available for free to existing BT broadband customers, with high-definition versions of the three channels – BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN UK – costing an extra £3 per month.
Following the launch of the WSL in 2011, the rise of the England women’s team to seventh in the FIFA World Rankings and the success of the London 2012 Olympics, women’s football is the largest growth area of the English game and is now the third biggest team sport in the country. The WSL will be expanding from 2014 to include 18 clubs competing across a new two-tier structure. Stuart Turner, commercial director at the FA, said: “In BT we have the perfect partner to help take the game forward over the next four years, both as a new and innovative broadcast partner for the FA WSL in BT Sport, and a commercial partner supporting women’s football. We are very excited about working with them to continue increasing our levels of participation and to deliver a closer connection to our fans.”
Simon Green, head of BT Sport, added: “We are delighted to sign this partnership with the FA to develop women’s football and to build on the sport’s recent success. We are also really pleased that we’ll be broadcasting live matches from the FA WSL on ESPN and BT Sport, which we feel gives us some fantastic women’s sport throughout the summer, which is a major focus for us.”