The FA and Premier League clash over Women's Super League relaunch
The GIST: The Football Association (FA) — English soccer’s governing body — has asked the Premier League (EPL) to fund a $31M relaunch of the Women's Super League (WSL). While a "significant minority" of clubs are reportedly in favor, others appear to be split on whether this is the right time to invest in the women's side. Feels a bit laddish TBH.
The details: The FA hopes to establish an enhanced top flight for U.K. women's soccer next season, but the clock is ticking. December is the deadline to finalize funding before the WSL and the second-tier Women's Championship move under a new subsidiary company. Currently, the FA owns these leagues, but wants them to be owned and operated by a new buyer — ideally the EPL. If successful, the WSL really could become the EPL 2.0.
- The relaunch would coincide with the WSL's new TV deal after the current one expires in 2024. And with the Lionesses ascending to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) final and winning the 2022 Euro, viewership numbers say putting money on the women's side is a safe bet.
The proposal: To form the relaunched league, 14 of 20 EPL teams must vote in favor of taking ownership of the WSL. The EPL seems interested in the takeover, but hasn’t formally shared the proposal to clubs.
- If it passes, the FA plans to cover start-up costs with the EPL’s central funds, but faces "considerable disagreement" among clubs about whether all teams should contribute and how much they should pay.
- EPL clubs own 11 out of 12 WSL teams, although there are other ones that have women's teams in lower competitive tiers, like Crystal Palace and Newcastle. There's well-documented inconsistency in support that could make a revamped WSL a hard sell internally — many EPL teams aren't investing in their women's clubs right now.
Zooming out: According to an independent review, U.K. women's soccer could be a billion-dollar industry within the next decade, if investment starts immediately. The demand is there — soccer is the U.K.’s most-watched women's sport and the fourth-most overall this year so far — and everything in the women's game is trending upward, including club revenues, player values, and match attendance.
- If the EPL remains divided and the FA misses their upcoming deadline, they'll be missing out on investing in the next big thing. It's kind of like buying pizza with Bitcoin.