FA WSL 2021-22: WHY NOW IS THE RIGHT TIME TO START WATCHING THE WOMEN'S GAME
If there ever was an advertisement to watch the FA WSL, it came on the opening weekend of the 2021-22 season with Arsenal’s thrilling 3-2 win over defending champions Chelsea. The Blues grabbed the title on the last day of the season, edging out Manchester City by two points.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) September 5, 2021
Women’s football in England has not been as exciting as it is today since the first World War with increasing viewership, rising sponsorships, and an overall improvement in quality of play. There is still a long way to go relative to the men’s game but there are promising signs of catching up, especially given the increasing disillusionment surrounding men’s football.
INCREASING QUALITY OF PLAYERS
The FA Women’s Super League replaced the FA Women’s Premier League National Division in 2011 and was originally intended to be a fully professional league from the beginning but it took until the 2018-19 season for that goal to be achieved.
This change has helped English clubs attract better players over the past few seasons. Last season’s top scorer Sam Kerr joined Chelsea in 2019, Manchester United’s return to women’s football eventually brought Tobin Heath and Christen Press to England while Manchester City’s signings of Sam Mewis and Luzy Bronze were major statements and Tottenham signed arguably signed the biggest star of the game in Alex Morgan in 2020.
— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) September 6, 2021
Even home-grown players like Katie Zelem, Lauren James and Fran Kirby have stepped up in terms of quality and made the league better to watch. The competition has gotten more intense which has encouraged viewers and should have a much higher positive impact in the long run.
It has also made English clubs more competitive in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Chelsea became the first club from the country to reach the final last season since Arsenal won the tournament in 2007 while Manchester City bowed out respectably in the quarter finals to eventual winners Barcelona. Arsenal narrowly lost to PSG in the quarters the year before.
ALL ABOUT THE MONEY
Clubs too are increasing investment in the women’s teams, partly out of moral pressure from their supporters but largely because they see the potential in it to be a profitable venture. European success is the next natural progression in the journey of English clubs and will inevitably increase their scope of success even more.
Sky Sports, the harbinger of investment into British men’s football, has also signed a three-year agreement to broadcast the FA WSL. The deal is set to be considerably more valuable than the previous one and it will help the clubs supplement their investment, although the same questions of disparities that plague the men’s game are starting to emerge in women’s football.
🚨NEWS: Sky Sports & The BBC have announced a new three-year-deal with the FA to become the primary broadcaster for Barclays FA WSL matches, worth around £8m per season 💴
This is HUGE🔥 pic.twitter.com/hEU0ks5gqp
— Her Football Hub (@HerFootballHub) March 22, 2021
Only four teams – Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal – have lifted the trophy in the decade since its inception. Only Fulham join the list of winners if you extend it to the start of the millennium including the preceding National Division. For a sport that is in its nascent stages, the FA WSL already has remarkably laid down markers over the haves and have nots and the fact that it largely mirrors the men’s setup is not encouraging.
However, within the big teams, there is not much to separate the sides with all of them aiming for the title, except for Liverpool who have since been relegated.
THE 2021-22 FA WSL SEASON
It is in this larger backdrop that the 2020-21 season kicked off last weekend and the marker laid down was a big one. Although the Arsenal-Chelsea match was the marquee, it was Manchester City’s 4-0 win over Everton that saw a peak viewing audience of 800,000 – more than double the previous record for a league match.
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) September 6, 2021
It is all set to be a landmark season – Chelsea are looking to build upon their success, adding Lauren James to their roster. Manchester City came close last season and will challenge again while Arsenal have gone through a rebuild and should be up there, especially following the signing of Tobin Heath. Manchester United have had a dreadful summer but their structure looked promising on the opening day win over Reading.
The title race is going to be an enthralling one and it could be a catalyst in deciding the fate of the women’s game in the years to come. Women’s sport gets a lot of stick for not being entertaining enough but anyone who has a passion for football can see that the FA WSL is on the verge of a breakthrough. Now is as good a time as ever to tune in to watch the biggest names on the planet fight it out for the title.