Barclays, the UK-based bank, has renewed its title sponsorship rights for English soccer’s top-tier Women’s Super League in a three-year extension and will also become the first title partner of the second-tier Women’s Championship in a reported record-breaking deal.
The renewal, announced today and which comes into effect for the start of the 2022-23 season, has been reported as being worth at least double the fee that Barclays paid during its first cycle as title partner of the 12-team top women’s league. That came to £6 million ($7.95 million) across three years in an arrangement that expires at the end of the ongoing 2021-22 campaign.
A doubling of that fee would mean that, over the next three years, Barclays sets a new record for financial investment into professional women’s sport in the UK.
The extension will last until the end of the 2024-25 campaign (with Barclays putting its name to the second-tier Women’s Championship as well as to the WSL), while the bank has also renewed its deal with the men’s Premier League through another section of the same overall agreement and will stay on as the official banking partner of that top-tier competition.
The WSL and Women’s Championship deals would represent an investment of around £15 million in women’s professional soccer in the UK up until the end of the 2024-25 campaign and would also give the second-tier competition its first-ever title sponsor.
In total, Barclays has said it will be investing more than £30 million into women’s and girls’ soccer in the UK over the next three years, with significant funding set to go into the grassroots game.
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The WSL, the only fully professional women’s soccer league in Europe, contains 12 sides.
Formed in 2010, it has grown from eight teams, none of which were professional, and has now switched to a September-May schedule to become consistent with the men’s game in England.
Barclays' initial sponsorship deal for the WSL enabled the league to offer prize money for the first time since it was launched. Now, the title winners take home £500,000.
The league's previous main sponsor, between 2014-19, was Continental Tyres, while domestic broadcast rights are currently shared by pay-TV giant Sky Sports (its main media rights partner), and the BBC, the UK’s public-service broadcaster, through a deal struck in advance of this campaign.
Last month, the FA unveiled an ambition to triple the average attendance of WSL matches by 2024, aiming to increase attendances from just over 2,000 currently to 6,000 in three years’ time.
Kelly Simmons, director of the women’s professional game at English soccer’s governing Football Association, said: “Barclays have played a crucial role in the growth of women’s and girls’ football, so it is excellent news that they are committing to a new record investment in the women’s and girls’ pyramid until 2025.
“The FA Women’s Championship plays a pivotal role in the ongoing development of the pyramid structure and the credible history and association to football that Barclays has will make the league even stronger.”
Patrick Kinch, an analyst at GlobalData Sport, also commented on the extension: "The news that former Premier League title sponsor Barclays is renewing its partnership with England’s top women’s soccer competition shows that commercial interest from the game’s biggest external stakeholders remains strong …
"With growing attendances and broadcast deals, the agreement with Barclays is likely to represent a doubling of the initial valuation if not more, as the league grows in popularity and online engagement, with the bank sure to see the PR value in being one of the first main partners for a league which only recently turned fully professional.
"The renewal from Barclays adds to the WSL's growing momentum, and clearly shows the league is generating both return on investment and positive publicity for brands."
Barclays will also continue to sponsor the FA Girls' Football School Partnership, which so far over 12,000 schools have signed up to.
Its extension of the deal covering the Premier League, meanwhile, takes its association with that competition (for which it was title sponsor between 2001-16), past the 20-year mark.