What can fans expect from Sky Sports' WSL coverage?

The first of Sky Sports’ Women’s Super League matches airs TONIGHT with Man United hosting Reading in the season opener… with Karen Carney leading the pundit line-up, what can fans expect from the new multi-million TV deal?

  • The Women’s Super League season starts tonight with Man United v Reading 
  • Sky Sports will broadcast 35 games as part of a new mult-million TV deal 
  • Ex-England international Karen Carney is the lead pundit of a star-studded team  
  • Sportsmail takes a look at what fans can expect from the broadcaster 

It will be a landmark moment when Manchester United and Reading walk out in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Leigh Sports Village tonight.

A new multi-million pound TV deal means the broadcaster will show Women’s Super League matches for the first time. 

Sky are synonomous for their football coverage with shows like Monday Night Football digging into in-depth analysis of matches, players and managers – as well as the big issues within the game.

A new multi-million pound TV deal means Sky Sports will show the WSL for the first time

Women’s football has long craved for similar treatment. Over the years, fans have been left frustrated by a lack of accessible coverage. Matches that have been broadcast in the past have not always been easy to find while, at times, attention to detail has also been lacking.

You only have to go back to this summer’s Olympics where one commentator suddenly deicded to change Team GB striker Ellen White to Ellie White. Players, managers and fans have long deserved better. 

Sky will broadcast 35 games across the season while the BBC, who have been long-standing supporters of the women’s game, will show 22 matches. 

It’s fair to say fans Sky’s arrival to the women’s game has excited fans, who have high expectations. But can the broadcaster deliver?

‘Absolutely we can,’ Sky’s director of football Gary Hughes tells Sportsmail.

‘We always pride ourselves on being best in class, that’s in any sport we get the rights for.

‘We’ve got 25 years plus history of delivering best in class sport and being at the forefront of innovation in our coverage.’

So how will Sky’s coverage of the WSL look?

‘It will look like Sky football,’ Hughes explains. ‘It will look no different to what we do with any of our other footballing rights. We’re really excited by getting the WSL. Sky Sports is synonymous with football and it’s synonymous with women’s sport.

‘By getting the WSL rights, that marries those two together and it’s a really exciting and a fantastic addition to our rights portfolio.

‘From day one, we’ve talked about positioning this as a premium right, it’s one of the best leagues in the world with some of the best players in the world and we’ll treat that how we do with all our other rights, with the full Sky Sports treatment.

‘It will be on the same level as our Premier League coverage. We’ve spent time at all 12 clubs in the last few weeks, we’ve done our ‘hero’ photography shots, which is the full body shots for the line-ups like we do for the Premier League.

‘Our first game, Man United v Reading, will come from the same studio as our Premier League coverage does, all the creative assets will be the same. 

‘We’ll have touch-screen available pre and post match for any tactics and analysis so it will get the full Sky Sports treatment and it will, hopefully, look as good as our Premier League coverage.’

Sky have also assembled what they believe to be a best in class team, which consists of ex-England international Karen Carney as their main pundit, experienced broadcaster Caroline Barker as the presenter, Lynsey Hooper as their pitch-side reporter, with Jacqui Oatley on commentary duties.

‘I think Karen is the best female pundit in the game,’ says Hughes.

Former England international Karen Carney will be Sky’s lead pundit for their WSL coverage

Manchester United will host Reading in the opening game of the WSL on Sky Sports

‘We’ve brought her into our team, she’s tactically and analytically very good. She’s spent a lot of time working on the men’s game as well. I think she’s going to be brilliant for us.

‘I want her to be the Gary Neville of the WSL. I want her to be the go-to pundit. If there’s any stories in the WSL, I want her to be the agenda setter and the person everybody goes to

‘We’ve put together what we think is a really top quality, best in class team.

‘We’ve done a lot for women’s sport over the last few years if you look at our cricket and netball coverage. Women’s football has grown and improved, our job is to grow it even further.

‘The league is in its strongest possible place and we’re fortunate to inherit a league that is in a strong position. We are the home of football and to add women’s football to our portfolio is what we wanted to do, it’s always been in the plans.

‘The timing was right in terms of the rights cycle. We’re positioning this as football, it’s women’s football but it’s part of our football portfolio. We’re really looking forward to get stuck into it and trying to get football fans to support their men’s and women’s team.

‘For example, we have Aston Villa on Sky Sports Saturday lunchtime in the WSL and Villa on a Saturday Night Football Premier League game. That’s one of our aims, to educate football fans and get the men watching the men and the women and the women watching the women and the men.’

Oatley, who was the first female commentator on Match of the Day, has covered women’s football since 2004 and believes now is the right time to ‘go big’.

Experienced broadcaster Jacqui Oatley will be in the commentary box for the broadcaster

‘It’s been a long term coming in there being such extensive and in-depth coverage of women’s league football on mainstream TV,’ she tells Sportsmail. ‘Women’s football has been in a developmental phase over 50 years and now we’re at the stage where we’re ready to go big and just treat it like football.

‘The standards of the game have developed to another level where it demands anaylsis. We don’t want to just go off air and talk about a great performance or a poor performance we want to say “why was it a great performance? What are the statistics behind the performance?”

‘It’s going to be so much more thought provoking. What Karen Carney achieved in the women’s game was exceptional. There’s so much more depth to her, the studying that she’s done means that she has an incredibly analytical brain. 

‘She’s a fantastic analyst and I think players are going to enjoy watching her coverage. Players that are being analysed will resepct what she has to say. ‘ 

With the WSL set for one of its most competitive seasons of all-time, Oatley is excited to see which clubs can challenge the established top three of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. But she also noted the importance of fans being aware of how and where they can watch their team in action.

‘I think clubs need to really do their bit in terms of making sure that they’re promoting ticket sales. People need to know they can buy tickets and clubs need to do the basics and make it simple. 

‘The broadcasters are doing their bit but the clubs need to do their bit as well. Fans are going to watch these players and clubs need to make it as easy as possible, because the ticket prices are just incredible. I’m not sure people realise you can buy a Manchester United season ticket for £39 for example. 

Sky Sports will broadcast at least 35 games across the season as well as lengthy build-ups, post-match analysis and daily news

‘If I was an Everton supporter I would be buying a season ticket because I would want to see the players they’ve brought in. I’m really excited to see what Everton are doing. Some of the players they have brought in are genuinely exciting. 

‘Toni Duggan is a top quality player and Hanna Bennison is so exciting. It’s really important that we don’t just have a top two every season.’ Everton’s first game live on Sky is against Birmingham on September 25. 

Following tonight’s opener between United and Reading, Sky will show Arsenal v Chelsea on Sunday at 12.30pm. Chelsea are looking to defend their WSL title while Arsenal are aiming to get off to a winning start under new boss Jonas Eidevall.

As well as broadcasting 35 matches, Sky will show ‘Inside the WSL’ every Thursday – which will offer exclusive interviews and with discussions on the biggest talking points from the week. There’s also a new Twitter account – @SkySportsWSL – which brings highlights, news and much more.

As fans prepare for the launch of the new campaign, there’s every reason to be excited and hopeful that this can be the best WSL season yet.

Sky Sports will show at least 35 games exclusively live this season as well as lengthy build-ups, post-match analysis and daily news. 

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