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SBD Global/October 25, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

FA Aims To Make Women's Football Second-Highest Participant Sport In U.K. By '18

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Britain keeper Karen Bardsley fails to stop a Canada free kick during an Olympic match in Coventry, England in August.
The FA is looking "to build on the legacy" made in women’s football at the London Games and "overtake cricket as the second-most popular participation sport in the country," according to Peter Lansley of the LONDON TIMES. The governing body said that it "will be expanding the Women’s Super League, launched last summer, to two divisions in '14." It is part of a five-year plan "aimed at attracting a quarter of a million women to the sport by '18." Women’s football is the fourth-most popular sport in terms of participation behind men’s football, cricket and rugby (LONDON TIMES, 10/24). BLOOMBERG's Danielle Rossingh reported that the FA said it will create an “Elite Performance Unit” and appoint a head of elite development. For the first time in its 149-year history, the FA will develop a commercial program for women’s football "to make it financially sustainable." It will "sell the commercial rights for women’s matches separately from rights for the men’s game." The governing body said that it will also "try to secure more television coverage and strike sponsorship deals to boost the profile of the women’s game" (BLOOMBERG, 10/24).

ROOM FOR GROWTH: The BBC's Sam Sheringham wrote that FA Chair David Bernstein said: "Women's football is the area with the most potential for growth in the nation's favourite game." The FA is "determined to build on the success" enjoyed by women's football at the London Games, when 70,584 turned out at Wembley to watch Team GB defeat Brazil in a group match. The FA will invest £3.5M ($5.6M) into the women's game over the next four years. England coach Hope Powell said that she hoped the plan "could help the national team move up from its current world ranking of eighth to challenge the likes of Germany, France and the U.S." Powell also reiterated her desire for Team GB "to be represented" at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic (BBC, 10/24). In London, Owen Gibson noted that FA General Secretary Alex Horne said that the evolution of a professional league would depend "on the commitment of top clubs." He praised Arsenal for seeing its women's club "as an extension" of its community and commercial strategy and "called on others to do the same." Even though more than 70,000 turned out for an Olympic match, and England matches have drawn "respectable audiences" on the BBC, the average crowd at a Women's Super League match in the U.K. is "about 500." FA Head of National Game Kelly Simmons said, "One of the key things is the new commercial approach. We need to build on what we've got today with ESPN and the BBC" (GUARDIAN, 10/24). FA and women's football leaders have called on England's top men's clubs to invest more money in their female teams as the game took another step toward a professional structure (Professional Footballers' Association).
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