WSL could stage matches on Friday and Saturday nights as part of new TV deal

Chelsea's Jess Carter and Man City's Lauren Hemp in action/WSL could stage Friday and Saturday night matches as part of new TV deal
The majority of WSL matches have traditionally been played on Sundays - Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

Women’s Super League matches could be played on Friday and Saturday evenings from next season once a new television rights deal is agreed, Telegraph Sport has learnt.

The majority of WSL matches have traditionally been played on Sundays but a new 5.30pm Saturday evening slot is among the packages currently being discussed with broadcasters, along with Friday nights and early Sunday afternoons.

WSL games being played on Friday nights would not be entirely new; Chelsea hosted title rivals Manchester City in the live BBC 2 match as recently as last Friday. But the idea that such a slot could become a more regular fixture is an intriguing move for the division, as it seeks to strike a balance between the need to grow attendances whilst also increasing TV revenues.

The latest TV rights were put out to tender by the so-called Newco - the temporary name for the newly-formed independent entity that will be running the WSL and Women’s Championship from this summer taking over from the Football Association - as it seeks to secure a significant increase in revenues.

The BBC and Sky Sports currently share the WSL’s existing domestic TV rights deal, which expires at the end of this summer. Between £7 million and £8 million per year is currently paid and the vast majority of that is understood to be contributed by Sky Sports, whose marketing input for the WSL has also been extensive. It was reported earlier this month that the Newco is looking for a deal of around £15 million to £20 million per season .

According to data recently published by the Women’s Sports Trust, football dominates the consumption of women’s sport by UK viewers - 74 per cent - well ahead of women’s cricket (15). The BBC said in November that Chelsea’s 5-1 win over Liverpool had become the most-watched WSL fixture to date with a peak audience of 955,000 viewers.

It is understood that the BBC and Sky, along with TNT Sports and DAZN, are all in contention to be broadcast partners for the next rights cycle. Owing to the relatively urgent need for the women’s game to tie up a deal for next season, talks are expected to move forwards fairly quickly.

Telegraph Sport understands the Newco are also looking to find a streaming partner to show the games that are currently shown live on the FA Player, which is a free online service. It is believed the Newco wants a higher-production service from a third party, which may or may not be free-to-air, and that would ensure that - as is the case currently - every single match in a WSL season would be broadcast live.

WSL exemption to national 3pm blackout still some way off

What does look set to change, though, are the kick-off times. The newly-proposed Saturday 5.30pm slot in particular would be a direct clash with the 32 live men’s Premier League matches a season that will be shown on that time slot on Sky Sports until 2029, under the men’s top tier’s newest rights deal. Sky will also have regular live men’s top-flight games on Sundays at 2pm, 4.30pm and 24-per-season on Mondays at 8pm, while Sky’s new Premier League package also includes eight games per season at 7.45pm on a Saturday night.

Meanwhile, TNT sports will have 52 live men’s Premier League matches per season, 32 of which will be in the 12.30 Saturday lunchtime slot. Formerly known as BT Sport, they have previously been WSL rights holders. They also have the rights to Women’s Premier 15s rugby games as well as showing some Women’s Champions League fixtures, which are predominantly on DAZN.

The WSL had hoped to be given an exemption to the Government-imposed national blackout at 3pm on Saturday afternoons, an idea that was tabled in Karen Carney’s women’s football review, but that prospect is believed to remain some way off, and a Saturday 3pm slot is certainly not amongst the options being discussed with broadcasters in the ongoing tender process.