Women’s football enters a bold and exciting new era in 2014 as BT Sport screens regular live games during the fourth FA WSL season, kicking off on April 17.
The new season of English football’s premier women’s club competition comes with a fresh format as for the first time there will be two divisions – FA WSL 1 and FA WSL 2 – along with promotion and relegation between tiers.
A hugely successful 2013 season saw more fans than ever coming through the turnstiles since the launch back in 2011, and now the expansion to two divisions in 2014 is set to move the women’s game on to a whole new level.
The WSL has captured the imagination of women’s footall supporters up and down the country with some of the best talent across Europe and the world coming to play in the competition.
There have been numerous changes over the last few years with more competition, exposure, engagement and now television coverage, all ensuring the FA WSL has moved on from its humble beginnings.
There is a new sense of vibrancy in the women’s game after it was announced back in March 2013 that a new 10-team second tier would be introduced for the 2014 season.
Teams up and down England from Sunderland to Yeovil will be competing as the WSL prepares to increase from a single division of eight teams to two tiers with 18 clubs in total.
There is the added excitement that teams will now be promoted and relegated between the two divisions, but those in the second tier cannot go down.
With the growth of the women’s game getting stronger every year, the authorities are hoping that this new development will only increase competition further and make the sport even stronger.
One of the biggest developments has been the announcement that Manchester City will be playing in the competition for the first time.
They will be playing in the top flight with reigning champions Liverpool, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Chelsea, Everton, Notts County (formerly known as Lincoln Ladies) and Arsenal.
City previously played in the Premier League, which is a division below the WSL, but their inclusion has given everyone a major lift and they are now hoping to get even stronger over the next few years.
The second tier – FA WSL 2 – will comprise of Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees (Barnet FC), Millwall Lionesses, Oxford United, Reading, Sunderland, Watford and Yeovil Town.
The future looks promising for the WSL and the new set-up is looking like it will bring in even more spectators, viewers and media interest this year.
BT Sport will be following the entire FA WSL season with exclusively live games and regular highlights.
The new WSL campaign kicks off live on BT Sport on Thursday, April 17, when reigning champions Liverpool Ladies take on top-flight newcomers Manchester City Women, who are competing in the league for the first time.
That clash is the first of 14 games BT Sport will be showing live throughout the season, including the Continental Cup final, while fans can also see a weekly WSL Show on Tuesday evenings.
Helen Skelton will be again the face of WSL on BT Sport, having also headed the coverage last year, and is passionate about continuing to raise the profile of women’s football.
The presenter told btsport.com: “It’s good that the channel are so excited about having the WSL because they’re going to put resources into it, they’re going to do it properly – and they want to do it properly.
“Last year everything happened so quickly, we kind of hit the ground running and it was like ‘I wish we could do this, I wish we could do that’.
“This year, now we’re a bit more organised and we’ve had time to regroup, we’re all feeling we can do some good features, get to know the characters, get to know the players and really do the game justice.”
Skelton believes the opening live TV clash – Liverpool Ladies v Manchester City Women – is the perfect way to kick off the season.
“You’ve got City, who are the new kids on the block but they’ve spent big, they’ve got a really good infrastructure, they’ve got internationals, they’ve got the new England captain.
“Then you’ve got Liverpool, who are the title holders. So I think the first match will be a really spicy one. Hopefully that will be a sign of things to come.”
BBC Sport will also screen highlights and all the key goals from the FA WSL through its magazine series The Women’s Football Show on BBC Three and online via bbc.co.uk/sport, all of which forms part of the corporation’s extensive coverage of the sport throughout the 2014-15 season.
England’s FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 qualifying matches continue this year with all matches live on BBC TV, updates on Radio 5 live and live streaming via the BBC Sport website.
Further live women’s football comes in June as BBC Two screens live coverage of the FA Women’s Cup final on Sunday, June 1.
| FA WSL 2014 – LIVE GAMES on BT SPORT
|THURSDAY 17th APRIL|
|Liverpool Ladies v Manchester City Women FA WSL 1||19:45|