(Reuters) – Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes has hailed Barclays’ sponsorship deal with the Women’s Super League (WSL) as a “watershed moment”, saying it gives the Football Association (FA) a perfect platform to sell the broadcasting rights to the competition.
The FA said it was the biggest ever investment in British women’s sport by a brand, with the BBC reporting it was worth more than 10 million pounds over three years until 2022.
“I’ve been saying for some time that I felt this would be the watershed moment, where we would commercialise the game,” Hayes told BBC Sport. “You need somebody like Barclays to say ‘I’ll be the first’.
“The interest is growing. It’s a snowball-effect and I can’t see anybody getting in the way of England becoming the best place in the world to play.
“The next big moment is to find a broadcasting platform, putting the game in a position where it has got regularity, a slot, and the best exposure. That’s got to be the next big priority of the domestic game.”
Hayes, whose Chelsea side won the domestic league and cup double last term, believes the investment is further proof of the rising profile of the WSL.
“Tell me a league in the women’s game that can attract a sponsor like Barclays? It is absolutely brilliant news,” she added.
“This will be the best league in the world, if it’s not already. It’ll be an unbelievable league in a couple of years.”
Kelly Simmons, the FA director of women’s football, said the sponsorship deal would make the women’s top flight less dependent on the men’s teams for financial support.
“We can help make the women’s game more sustainable and partners like Barclays can make sure the game has got enough revenue to be professional, and not reliant on men’s football clubs’ money,” Simmons told Sky Sports.
“I think in the next few years, it’s really important to build awareness and build the fanbase of people watching on television and coming to the grounds.”
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)