Barclays WSL deal a ‘landmark moment’ for women’s football
The multi-year sponsorship is believed to be worth more than £10m
Barclays has signed a deal to become the first ever title sponsor of the FA Women’s Super League (WSL) - a move that has been described as a “landmark moment” for women’s football.
The banking and financial services group has agreed a three-year partnership “understood to be worth in excess of £10m”, the BBC reports.
Starting from the 2019-20 season, the top tier will be renamed the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.
Announcing the deal on Wednesday, The Football Association (FA) said the partnership is the “biggest ever investment in UK women’s sport by a brand”. Barclays will also become a lead partner of The FA Girls’ Football School Partnerships.
The FA’s director of women’s professional football Kelly Simmons said: “We are delighted to announce our landmark partnership with Barclays and are looking forward to them joining us on a journey to transform the future of women’s football.
“Their record, multi-million pound commitment will impact all levels of the game and will support our ambition to make the Barclays FA Women’s Super League the world’s most successful league, on and off the pitch.
“Of equal importance is the support this provides to The FA Girls’ Football School Partnerships, a cornerstone to our ambition to double participation within The FA’s Gameplan for Growth strategy and will see girls across the country given the opportunity to begin a relationship with football, which we hope will last a lifetime.”
Jes Staley, group CEO of Barclays, added: “Football has the power to transform young people’s lives, boosting their confidence, being part of a team and providing more opportunities to grow.
“The grassroots work through The FA Girls’ Football School Partnerships will help thousands more girls in England to take up sport and we look forward to partnering with The FA to deliver that.”
As well as the league sponsorship and girls’ football initiatives, the Barclays deal will also see the WSL get an annual prize money pot of £500,000.
Speaking to BBC Sport Simmons said: “It’s a real landmark moment in the development of the women’s game. We obviously want to get more fans and more revenue behind the game, making sure it’s secure and sustainable for the future.
“But also the investment in schools makes sure lots of girls get the chance to play football, which is our pipeline for the future.”
The Daily Telegraph’s women’s football writer Katie Whyatt reports that the WSL is Europe’s only fully professional domestic women’s football league and this season all clubs are full-time.
Sports Industry Group adds that Barclays has joined brands such as Visa, adidas, Nike, Budweiser and Lucozade Sport to invest in women’s football ahead of this summer’s Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.
Reactions to the Barclays-WSL partnership
Kelly Smith, former Arsenal and England striker: “It’s massive, massive news. Even when I was playing, I was hoping a big brand would come on board and help promote and develop the women’s game. It’s in such a healthy place now and you can see the interest growing year-by-year. If England can do well at the World Cup and get to the final or even win it, the game will be taken to a new level. It’s a healthy place to be.”
Chelsea midfielder Karen Carney: “The game is growing so big and so fast. Everything that we’ve wanted is happening.”
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes: “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.”
Suzanne Wrack, The Guardian: “Gamechanger can be a little overused, but in the case of Barclays’ eight-figure sponsorship deal over three years of the FA Women’s Super League that is literally what it is.”