Champions Chelsea face Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the new Women’s Super League season (John Walton/PA)
After a summer in which the England team took another historic step forward, the Women’s Super League returns this week with the next major phase in its development on the horizon.
New ground was broken by the Lionesses once again as, a year on from claiming their first major trophy with Euros glory on home soil, they reached a maiden World Cup final.
While they ended up being edged 1-0 by Spain on August 20, the exploits of Sarina Wiegman’s side at the tournament in Australia and New Zealand only further strengthened the sense of momentum surrounding the English women’s game.
The WSL has been a key contributor to that as well and, as the start of the 2023-24 season draws near, there has been much talk about the division – which has been fully professional since 2018 – entering a new era.
An independent company currently being referred to as ‘NewCo’ is set to take over the running of the league and the second-tier Championship from the Football Association from the start of 2024-25 onwards, and WSL chair Dawn Airey has spoken about the ambition to create the first billion-pound league structure in women’s football.
Indicators of the growth the WSL has enjoyed to this point include its broadcast deal with Sky and the BBC that started in 2021 and runs to the end of this coming season, and attendance figures, with the FA reporting the average rose by 170 per cent in 2022-23 compared to 2021-22, and a record 47,367 watching Arsenal v Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium last September.
That high mark may well be surpassed on the first day of the 2023-24 campaign this Sunday, when Arsenal are back at theRead on belfasttelegraph.co.uk