Any future TV deal must include the W-League, say fans of the country’s premier women’s competition.
The W-League’s TV exposure in the last few years has increased significantly as women’s sport across a number of codes gets further attention.
“I love being able to watch the games on the weekend when I can’t get to them,” says Western Sydney Wanderers fan Prena Goptal. “I always watch the Sunday games.”
For Brisbane Roar member Brianna White, it’s a family affair.
“My daughter and I always get together and watch Thursday night games, even when Brisbane isn’t playing,” she says.
The 2019/20 W-League season saw the birth of a new era for women’s football in Australia with every game streamed live and two live games on TV. Thursday night games were live on Fox Sports while Sunday games were live on Fox Sports and ABC. All four games were streamed through Kayo Sports.
The Matildas were also shown on free-to-air and Fox Sports, with FFA and broadcasters alike pandering to the increasing demand for women’s football on TV.
“The Matildas are our most popular sports team in Australia, not just in soccer but all sports,” says Brianna. “Most of those girls played in the W-League last year, it was great to be able to see them.”
Foxtel’s current $57M a year deal, which is due to expire in 2022, is currently under threat due to Covid19 complications and Foxtel’s precarious financial position. The likelihood of the contract running till its expiry date is considered low.
There have been new TV suitors discussed including Optus Sport and some free-to-air channels but nothing is confirmed.
When asked whether any potential new TV deal would guarantee coverage of the W-League, an FFA spokesperson said it was impossible for them to discuss a hypothetical situation.
He reiterated that FFA has a current TV deal in place which covers the Westfield W-League currently and Westfield Matildas matches.
It would be a tremendous backward step if the W-League isn’t given TV coverage going forward. More girls and women are playing football than ever before with over 156,000 participating in 2019. The popularity of the Matildas in recent years has driven this growth in female participation.
“Women’s and girls soccer is more popular than ever before,” says Prena. “We can’t go backward and undo all that hard work.
“We can’t afford to throw it back in the face of female football fans, especially when other sports are showing increased commitment to women.”
The other major sporting codes in Australia have made a statement during the current Covid19 pandemic, insisting the women’s version of their respective sports won’t be forced to give way.
The NRL last week announced it was close to securing a $2bn TV deal with Nine and Fox Sports, with the NRLW competition included as part of the negotiations.
The AFLW is in the middle of a four-year $10M deal which sees Foxtel televise all four games each weekend, while Channel Seven has two home-and-away matches per round.
This deal is separate to the whopping six-year $2.5bn broadcast rights agreement the AFL signed in 2017 for its men's competition. This deal is expected to be extended by two years in the coming weeks, though it’s unclear if the AFLW will be bundled in as part of the extension package.
Cricket Australia signed a $1.2bn six-year deal with Seven and Fox Sports in 2018 which included the women’s national team and the popular Women’s Big Bash League.