The Premier League is edging closer to “assuming responsibility” for both tiers of elite women’s football, according to its chief executive, who underlined his personal commitment to the merger in a grilling by MPs.
Discussions with the Football Association over a timescale have been delayed by Covid-19, but Richard Masters said the plan – which could unlock millions for the women’s game in TV money – “is something I want to see”.
The contrast in fortunes between the Premier League and the FA Women’s Super League have been brought into sharp focus in recent weeks. Elite men’s football has rapidly resumed behind closed doors after lockdown while all women’s sport faces a total of six months without competitive team competition.
Talks over a merger first surfaced a year ago and Masters said there had since been “lots of dialogue” around a topic which “we will return to in the near future”, once the Covid-19 crisis has eased.
Facing questions from the Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Masters disclosed how England’s top-tier clubs had already given £1 million of funding to women’s football to ensure they have adequate virus testing regimes in place for the 2020-21 season.
He also said he did not expect the women’s game to be heavily impacted by extensive FA cuts, including 124 redundancies, announced on Monday to help cover expected losses of around £300m.
Masters told MPs that from a “personal perspective” he wanted to see the Premier League help the women’s game amid fears its profile has gone into reverse after achieving record audiences during last summer’s World Cup in France.
“In the last year we’ve had lots of dialogue with the FA and our own clubs about the Premier League in some point in the future assuming responsibility for the professional game,” he said. “We decided collectively, the Premier League and the FA together and the WSL and Women’s Championship boards, that now wasn’t the right time.