Hope Powell: Women's Super League must use new TV money to help smaller clubs close gap

Former England manager Hope Powell says it is important “to ensure there is sustainability” in the Women’s Super League in the next 10 years.

Tuesday marked a decade since the league was launched, when Arsenal beat Chelsea 1-0 in the first match.

Powell was in charge of England for 15 years before returning to the game as Brighton manager in the WSL in 2017.

“We have to take care of the grassroots game. That is the future of the game,” she said.

Birmingham City players this month sent a letter to the club’s board complaining about conditions for the women’s team.

Powell said that was “very concerning” and “highlights the fact there is still quite a disparity in the league” despite WSL growth and professionalisation.

“While the game has shifted there are still some areas and some clubs trying to catch up. It is all about resources,” she added.

From 2021-22, the BBC will show the WSL on network free-to-air TV for the first time in a “landmark” three-year broadcast deal with Sky – worth between £7m-£8m per season.

Powell hopes that money will “filter down and help some of those smaller clubs”.

She added: “Sometimes we need to pay a little bit of attention to perhaps those teams that don’t have the luxury [of resources] in order for the game to continue to grow and progress.

“The bottom has almost got to catch up with the top. The gap is massive. We need to make sure it’s stable so we allow those girls the opportunity to play. That’s the next 10 years. We have to take care of the whole pathway.”

"The bottom has almost got to catch up with the top. The gap is massive. We need to make sure it's stable so we allow those girls the opportunity to play. That's the next 10 years. We have to take care of the whole pathway."

Manchester United manager Casey Stoney said increased attendances were crucial to the success of the women’s game over the next 10 years, which she said would come from “marketing, visibility and awareness”.

“That comes from playing at the right stadiums. If you are on Sky and BBC, you want a crowd and an atmosphere,” said the former England captain.

“If you start raising attendances you get that and it becomes more profitable so you can aim towards sustainability.”

Original article 16.04.21 on BBC Sport website.

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