The fragmented world of sports broadcasting is here to stay.
Consuming fans are expected to shell out for Sky Sports, BT Sport, Premier Sports, Eurosport, even Amazon Prime, and quite possibly some form of social media in the future.
Even then, fans will still only be able to access a mere smattering of matches, competitions, races, events and leagues from football to Formula 1, NFL to darts.
But the FA Women’s Super League is ready to break the limits.
Brand new platform, The FA Player, has launched in time for the 2019/20 campaign and will broadcast live every single FA WSL game throughout the entire season. That’s 132 games in total – 11,880 minutes (plus stoppage time).
Not only that, The FA Player will also bring selected FA Women’s Championship matches to the masses on a weekly basis.
Urgh, another subscription, I hear you cry.
Wrong. It’s entirely free.
Not only will The FA Player change the shape of the women’s football game, it’s going to shift fans’ expectations of how much live sport they should be allowed to enjoy without opening their wallet.
A BBC, ITV or Channel 4 game – of any sport – is now seen as a treat.
Premier League fans are accustomed to weekly rations – an early game here, a late game there, maybe even two matches on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Any further live coverage would appear lavish, when in truth, it’s a crying shame every game isn’t available to UK fans in some shape or form, let alone free of charge.
England celebrate during the Women’s World Cup
The 2019 Women’s World Cup offered up further evidence to suggest there is an appetite for the game, fuelled by the BBC’s terrific emphasis on coverage. Free football, what’s not to enjoy?
Multi-million TV audiences for the Lionesses have translated into more than 55,000 tickets snapped up for an England v Germany friendly at Wembley.
Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Ellen White are closer to becoming true household names than any female sports stars before them, if they’re not already there.
Live coverage has shone a spotlight on England’s talented crop donning the white shirts, and fans feel they have a foothold in the game. They can dive into a Lionesses match without having to read up on the squad before every kick-off.
Fans don’t simply invest in the kick-kick-kick-goal nature of the sport, they invest in the rivalries, the individual superstars, the narratives, yet it’s hard to keep a story flowing in club games when they’re broadcast few and far between.
The FA WSL has struggled to feel the trickle-down effects of major international tournaments in past seasons, with such a disparity in live coverage between them and week-by-week action across the nation.
The FA Player coverage will offer fans the chance to capture the same familiarity with club teams and international stars in their natural habitats.
Fans don’t want a token offering, a shallow showcase of women’s football, they want to see genuine history being recorded between sides. That is how you will capture the general public, with an authentic product.
Free coverage could potentially have an impact on terrace attendances in the short-term, but the FA are playing a long-term game.
Bring the whole-season story of the FA WSL to the people, and the people will flock to the FA WSL.
The FA Player will bring consistent coverage to fans that can only lead to a deepening rapport with teams and players around the country, and serve as a reminder that some good things in life really can be free.