The FA Women's Super League is expected to be on Sky Sports from next season after the broadcaster swooped with a landmark offer to take all coverage of the top tier from BT Sport.
Sky executives were tempted to the market after the FA developed a new strategy to increase revenue with the help of rights management specialists, Women’s Sports Group.
The soon-to-be-agreed deal comes three weeks after the WSL agreed a US rights deal with NBC, the American broadcaster owned by Sky's parent company, Comcast.
For the first time, all FA-controlled women’s football club and national team fixtures were made available for tender for the 2021-22 season and beyond. The process has yet to be officially closed, but Sky are believed to have outbid other broadcasters for most of the packages available. Sky declined to comment on the domestic agreement when approached by Telegraph Sport.
The FA had never before attempted to monetise the television rights for the elite level of women’s football in this country. Since the WSL’s launch in 2011, the FA has given coverage to the BBC and BT Sport for free, with the broadcasters covering production costs, in an effort to chase the largest possible audience over potential TV rights revenue.
After a host of high profile transfers, Sky is understood to believe there is huge scope for the women's domestic game to grow rapidly in the coming years. More than two million people tuned in to watch the BBC’s Women’s Football Show after football returned from its long lay-off due to Covid-19.
The WSL was on an upwards trajectory before the pandemic hit, with a string of games staged at men’s Premier League grounds in a bid to capitalise on the momentum of last year’s World Cup in France.
WSG was founded a year ago by Dame Heather Rabbatts, the first female non-executive director of the FA and a former member of Fifa’s anti-discrimination task force, and David Kogan. Media rights consultant Kogan co-founded Reel Enterprises, which says it has overseen more than £20 billion of sports rights sales for the Premier League, English Football League, Uefa and the NFL among others.
The new deal has been agreed ahead of the men's Premier League putting its latest domestic cycle up for tender, potentially in December. Insiders are predicting a potential £675 million drop off in value on the current £4.5 billion package. Valuations peaked in 2016, and, while Sky and BT still consider the league their most valuable offering, Covid-19 has accelerated a gradual fall in what remain astronomical fees.
Earlier this month BT Sport announced it was gearing up for its "biggest ever season of women’s football, with more Barclays FA Women’s Super League games than ever before".
Their coverage is currently led by presenters Clare Balding, Jules Breach, Natalie Quirk and Reshmin Chowdhury, alongside former England internationals Karen Carney and Rachel Brown Finnis, with commentators including Adam Summerton and Lucy Ward.
The FA said the tender process is ongoing.