BBC to follow Lionesses' exploits at home Euro 2021
The BBC, the UK's public-service broadcaster, today announced it had acquired exclusive rights to the Uefa Women's Euro 2021, the continent's top national teams competition, which will be held in England.
The agreement comes off the back of the corporation having achieved record ratings for its coverage of the recently-concluded Fifa Women's World Cup in France, in which England's Lionesses finished fourth.
The BBC has promised "extensive coverage of every game" of Euro 2021 across its TV, radio and online platforms.
Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said: "After the success of the World Cup on the BBC and the record-breaking viewing figures for women's football, we're delighted to be the broadcaster of the Uefa Women's Euro 2021 Championship.
"At the start of this summer we wanted to shift the dial on women's football and I feel the phenomenal coverage from France has done just that. The BBC's sport portfolio continues to go from strength to strength and we're thrilled to add the 2021 Euros to that."
England’s 2-1 defeat to USA in the World Cup semi-final on 2 July attracted the highest-ever UK television audience for a women’s soccer match - an average of 10.3 million and a peak of 11.7 million - on the BBC.
Before the tournament, the previous record average audience for any women’s game in the UK was 4 million, achieved for England's semi-final defeat to the Netherlands in the 2017 European Championships, rights to which were held by rival commercial broadcaster Channel 4.
All of England’s group matches in the recent World Cup exceeded 4 million average viewers.
The BBC has been the traditional home of England's women's matches at international tournaments, and was surprised to be outbid by Channel 4 for the Euro 2017 rights.
The BBC showed every game from the 2015 Fifa Women's World Cup in Canada (at which England also reached the semi-finals) and the Uefa Women’s Euro 2013, and provided live coverage and highlights of England's matches at the 2011 Women's World Cup.
England was eventually unrivalled in the bidding for Euro 2021, after both Austria and Switzerland decided against pursuing bids.
The final of Euro 2021 will be held at Wembley, while other cities and stadiums to be used are: Brighton & Hove Albion's Amex Stadium, Brentford's Community Stadium, MK Dons' Stadium MK, Manchester City's Academy Stadium, Nottingham Forest's City Ground, Rotherham's New York Stadium, Sheffield United's Bramall Lane and Southampton's St Mary's Stadium.
In May, the BBC renewed its rights deal with the Football Association for the Women's FA Cup to 2025, committing to showing the semi-finals and final live every year.
Meanwhile, the European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella body of mostly public-service broadcasters, has claimed that record audiences for the Women’s World Cup show it to have been “a landmark moment for women’s sport.”
The organisation said today that viewing hours for last Sunday’s final across 17 countries covered by subsidiary Eurovision Sport’s rights deal amounted to 15.1 million, up from less than 1 million for the 2015 climax.
This partly reflects the fivefold increase in broadcast hours by Eurovision Sport members.
The Netherlands’ presence in the final (they went down 2-0 to USA) ensured the match recorded an 88-per-cent market share, with a peak audience of 6.3 million and average of 5.4 million on NPO 1, the main channel of public broadcaster NOS.
There were also notable increases in countries not represented at the tournament with Czech Television’s market share for the final amounting to 6.7 per cent, compared with 2.9 per cent in 2015, and RTV Slovenia’s market share climbing from 2 per cent to 14.2 per cent.
On top of the television offering, Eurovision Sport provided an internet service, football.eurovisionsport.tv, on which fans were directed to the live coverage of their national broadcaster or alternative online coverage.
The platform was most accessed in Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Estonia and the Czech Republic, with users spending an average of 24 minutes viewing and the audience demographic being 32 per cent women and 55 per cent under 34 years old.
Stefan Kurten, executive director of Eurovision Sport, said: “We have definitely witnessed a landmark moment in the broadcasting of women’s sport, and the role of Europe’s Public Service Media in that is significant. EBU Members have placed the FIFA Women’s World Cup centre stage and offered high quality, free-to-air coverage to millions. This invaluable support of the women’s game has brought it into everyone’s lives and contributed greatly to placing it at the top of the sporting agenda.
“It is also a very positive trend to see a significant increase the level of coverage and engagement in territories without national team involvement. The team at Eurovision Sport have worked hard to develop the interest in these territories within our contract* and secure broadcast support, and this has really paid off, paving the way for future development in the broadcasting of women’ sport across Europe.