NewCo CEO Nikki Doucet says her organisation is exploring “all possible options” in negotiating a new broadcast deal for the Women’s Super League and Championship as the top two tiers of English women’s football prepare to operate under an independent entity.
From next season, the leagues will be run under club-owned structure NewCo, with the FA also having what the organisation’s chief revealed will be a “special” share similar to its agreement with the Premier League.
An independent review of the women’s game led by former England international Karen Carney, recommended women’s football establish its own dedicated broadcast slot, suggesting the “obvious gap” would be 3pm on Saturday, which would require an exemption from or amendment to the historic blackout restrictions.
Asked about the likelihood of that happening, Doucet, speaking at Wembley Stadium, said: “I think the barrier is Article 48 (of the UEFA statutes), which encompasses all of football, and that’s how everything is governed in this market at the moment. We’re exploring.
Nikki Doucet has been appointed as CEO of the NewCo and will start her role with immediate effect.
— Barclays Women's Super League (@BarclaysWSL) November 28, 2023
“The Karen Carney review said women’s football needs to figure out its own point of view. So we’re exploring what that looks like. We’re trying to explore every possible opportunity and figure out what the market’s willing to do. We’re looking at every possibility and trying to understand that we’re part of a whole football eco-system.”
In 2021, the FA brokered a three-year deal with Sky and the BBC understood to be worth £24million but the women’s game has since experienced exponential audience and commercial growth, particularly following England’s Euro 2022 victory.
Doucet, appointed to lead NewCo in November after serving as a consultant on the transition, was previously general manager of Nike Women UK & Ireland and also worked with Citigroup Global Markets.
The Canadian revealed her team are balancing “reach and revenue” as they negotiate a new agreement, explaining: “I think, more than anything, it should just be as easy as possible for fans to be able to watch the league or the team or the player they want to. How we can do that is what we’re exploring.”
There were calls from some, including Chelsea boss Emma Hayes, to consider a closed league but Doucet confirmed NewCo would remain committed to a promotion-and-relegation structure, while the Continental Tyres League Cup will also remain next season.
Doucet could not provide details about the organisation’s governance structure or board make-up but believes the takeover will be transformational for the women’s game.
While Carney has suggested women’s football has the potential to become a £1 billion industry, Doucet said she doesn’t want to “put numbers out there”, wondering aloud why, with the right foundations and strategies in place, “couldn’t it be bigger?”
She added: “We’re kind of going from, and I don’t mean this disrespectfully because we would not be here without the FA, being within a governing body to a stand-alone, revenue-generating for profit, independent entity with a 100% dedicated professional management team. They wake up every day think about this project, this fan-base, these clubs and how we are going to grow this.
“I fundamentally see this as a start-up with 100 years of men’s football history. There are obviously challenges but also opportunities.
“When you look at the stats of the growth of the audience, the growth of our social media, whatever growth metric you look at, if you look at that in isolation without the judgement or direct comparison to men’s football, you look at those stats and you’d be like…’this is a high-growth tech start-up’.
“Women’s sport, however long you go back, has been underfunded. It’s been treated like a charity and expected charity returns. Now you’re starting to see professional management coming in with real investment and strategies against it, you’re starting to see examples around the world where it’s a viable thing.”