The Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes, has said the new historic broadcast rights deal for the Women’s Super League – worth in the region of £24m over three years – was “vindication for all the work done over a number of years” and praised the collective effort that led to it.
“It’s not just one club, one person, one entity, this is all about the whole and a it’s a real celebration for women’s football and everyone involved in it,” said Hayes on Monday, adding that a key part of the deal with Sky and the BBC was the “fact that all of them are committing to the studio package piece too – the buildup to games, the analysis of games, the level of detail that in and of itself becomes an important marker.”
The fact the WSL will have dedicated slots, despite concerns from some fans over the timings, also drew support. “In the Premier League there are 12 o’clock kick-offs and the concerns were the same for them,” she said. “The realities are that if we want the best players to be in our league and we want the best product, we have to be in a position to bring revenue into the game and our gates alone – at this stage – are not going to do that.
“We need the broadcasting deal that will allow clubs to continue to grow, so hopefully the next step is more broadcasting slots, not just late Friday and early Saturday, and actually it’ll be more often and done with the fans in mind.”
Hayes, whose Chelsea take on Wolfsburg in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday, also highlighted the success of finding a dedicated time for women’s football in the Mexican women’s league, which made Monday night women’s football night. “I’ve seen the successes they had in Mexico with this. I think the fact we have a slot is a bonus. Come on, we’re all football people, it’s on 24/7, so if our slot is whatever it is, it’s on then and we’re watching that in and around the other millions of games we’re all watching every week. But it’s regularity and consistency that is crucial.”
The 44-year-old added that she is glad that some of the central revenue will be used to improve refereeing standards. “I think it’s important to recognise how challenging it is when you have a full-time league with world-class professionals and amateur or lower-paid referees and officials,” she said.
“We have to support them. The work of Jo Stimpson [the head of refereeing] at the FA has been tremendous. There has been a massive improvement – regardless of what anybody says, there has been. I have been here since the beginning and we have made progress. Of course, for it to go up another level there has to be investment so that those officials are together as a core group more and are learning more about the players and the product and training more so they can keep up with the play at another level. That’s the missing gap.
“Now it’s up to us as football clubs to make sure that we have the quality in our facilities to make sure these games are on, week in week out, throughout the season, including the winter.”