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Now the Work Begins: What’s Next for Women’s Football in 2024?
Wednesday, February 21, 2024

2023 saw further impressive growth in interest around women’s sport, with increased viewership in the UK across television, social media and in-person attendance.[1] Almost one million more people tuned in to watch a minute or more of women’s sport in 2023 compared with the previous record set in 2019.[2]

Women’s football is still dominating the field, attracting 74% of the total viewing hours of women’s sport. The Final of the Women’s World Cup was the most watched women’s sport event on television in 2023, and the whole tournament attracted 15.6 million new viewers who, according to research carried out by Women’s Sport Trust, did not watch women’s sport before the tournament began.[3]

Positive news continued in December 2023, when the UK Government endorsed every recommendation put forward in Karen Carney MBE’s review, Raising the Bar – Reframing the Opportunity in Women’s Football (the “Review”) (see our previous summary and comment here). The FA also released a response to the Review, hot on the heels of the announcement that the Women’s Super League (WSL) and Women’s Championship clubs had reached agreement that club-owned NewCo will operate the leagues, under new CEO Nikki Doucet, from the 2024-25 season.[4]

There is always more to be done to continue the upward trends. This article highlights the developments which we can be expect in women’s football in 2024, particularly following the UK Government’s response to the Review.

Background to the Review

Following England’s success in the Women’s European Championship in 2022, the former England international Karen Carney MBE was commissioned by the UK Government to undertake an independent review, publishing her findings in July 2023 (see our previous summary and comment here). The Review aimed to “raise standards in domestic women’s football” and made key recommendations relating to the funding of the women’s game, diversity, grassroots facilities, broadcasting and more.

Meeting the recommendations in 2024

The UK Government has pledged and actively encouraged The FA and NewCo, as custodians of the women’s game, to take forward the recommendations. To ensure that the key milestones are met and delivered, the UK Government has confirmed that it will be convening an implementation group of key stakeholders, including The FA and NewCo amongst others. We are expecting this group to first assemble in March 2024.

In addition, the UK Government has committed to establishing a Board of Women’s Sports in 2024, which will be made up of leading figures in the wider industry in addition to football. It is proposed that this will “highlight common themes and challenges being faced by different sports, share best practices and research, and accelerate growth of women’s sport beyond women’s football”.

The responses from the UK Government and The FA addressing the recommendations made in the Review indicate what can be expected for women’s football in 2024. In summary:

  • 1 – NewCo and The FA Governance – Women’s professional football is migrating from The FA to NewCo (whereby the top two tiers will move to an independent club-owned structure). NewCo has already been incorporated in preparation for full implementation by the 2024/25 season.[5] In addition to this, The FA will look to create a plan to integrate the governance of women’s football with the wider game as recommended by the Review. This follows on from The FA’s implementation of the Board changes recommended in the Fan Led Review.
  • 2 – Financial regulation – The FA broadly agreed with the suggestion in the Review that women’s football does not need to be brought under the remit of the new independent regulator when established. However, this will be subject to certain qualifications as set out by The FA in its response, including:
    • NewCo must have powers to set financial sustainability rules.
    • In the creation of the new independent regulator, the UK Government must make sure that clubs do not disinvest in women’s football as a result of better sustainability in the men’s game.
    • Legislation for the new independent regulator should also support the women’s game. This can be met by ensuring the same enhanced proof and provenance of funding checks; the power to prevent breakaway leagues; and, legislative requirements for the sharing of financial information can apply to both women’s and men’s football.
  • 3 – Additional investment – In its response, The FA raised the issue of finding investment for woman’s football, as no suggestion for the source of such investment was given in the Review. The FA confirmed that it is in discussions with future strategic partners but, in the meantime, it anticipated that additional seed funding is likely to come from within football. The FA says it would support specific solidarity payments from the men’s game to support the player pathway in particular, but it would not necessarily recommend solidarity payments from men’s football for the running of the League. As an initial move of 2024, the WSL and Women’s Championship clubs approved an interest free loan of £20 million from the Premier League to NewCo.[6] It is reported that the loan will only be repayable when NewCo has recorded £100 million in annual revenue.
  • 4 – The FA Cup prize money – The FA has confirmed that the Women’s FA Cup prize money for 2023/2024 is “well over” 10 times greater than in 2021/2022. However, this will only be a step towards equal prize money across the men’s and women’s game. The FA explained that such a process faces significant challenges given the differences in the way the competitions are structured. Again, The FA noted that investment will help to equalise prize money more quickly, welcoming an uplift in support from broadcasters and other sponsors to facilitate reaching this goal faster.
  •  5 – Dedicated broadcast slot – The FA and the UK Government supported the proposal for a dedicated broadcast slot for women’s football at weekends. As it stands, Article 48 of the UEFA Statutes allows a football authority to prohibit any football matches being broadcast on live television on Saturdays (this is between 14:45 and 17:15 in England).[7] The UK Government acknowledged that revoking Article 48 could provide a viable option to increase the broadcast and commercial revenue of women’s football and encouraged The FA, Premier League, English Football League and broadcasters to begin discussions on this point. The current broadcasting deal for the WSL expires at the end of the season and NewCo will be aiming for a considerable increase in revenue for the next tender -especially noting that the US NWSL league landed a £200 million deal in November 2023.[8]
  • 6 – Professionalisation of the WSL and Women’s Championship – The Review also recommended various changes to minimum standards to continue to raise standards across both leagues. The FA has confirmed that it has begun implementing these changes and that it is taking a phased approach to ensure that investment is sustainable. In relation to Union representation, there are calls to ensure that players in the Women’s Championship receive formal representation by and membership of the Professional Footballers’ Association. Regarding player support, The FA confirmed the recruitment of a dedicated Player Care Manager to develop a player care strategy.
  • 7 – Pipeline of talent –The Review highlighted the disparity between the funding of the men’s and the women’s academies. This is showcased by the women’s game not having the same economic model as the men’s game, where some recouping of academy investment can be derived from transfer fees and compensation payments. The FA suggested that solidarity payments can be made from the men’s game to the women’s game until women’s academies can achieve the same financial sustainability through transfer fees.
  • 8 – Equal access for girls in schools and community facilities –In response to the recommendation to increase investment and access to the grassroots game, the UK Government and The FA announced that they would be making a substantial cash injection of £30 million to the new Lionesses Futures Fund (on top of its existing investment). This will go towards building 30 new sites with facilities designed to prioritise women and girls’ teams. The UK Government’s response highlights the continued progress in its commitment to boost equal opportunities in school sport, supported by over £600 million through the PE and School Sports Premium. This follows the Prime Minister’s response in March 2023 to the Lionesses’ call for equal access to sport in schools for boys and girls.


It was encouraging to see the UK Government provide their full backing to the Review, and the women’s game, as well as the additional investment in the form of the new Lionesses Futures Fund. However, it is important to note that this investment is only the first step; The FA has raised questions around the uncertainty as to where investment should come from to fulfil the other recommendations of the Review. The Premier League’s interest free loan has been a welcome and significant initial step for the investment into women’s professional football in 2024.

With this in mind, the deliberate and strategic approach taken by The FA and the UK Government towards building on the progress in women’s football so far will undoubtedly help the sport to move towards a better future. To borrow Karen Carney’s words, this “is a fantastic start but there is still plenty of work to be done“. We therefore hope to see the continued implementation of Carney’s recommendations throughout 2024.

[1] Visibility Uncovered, 2023 – The Year in Review: A Women’s Sport Trust Report into Visibility, Women’s Sport Trust (February 2024).

[2] Visibility Uncovered, 2023 – The Year in Review: A Women’s Sport Trust Report into Visibility, Women’s Sport Trust (February 2024), p 7.

[3] Visibility Uncovered, 2023 – The Year in Review: A Women’s Sport Trust Report into Visibility, Women’s Sport Trust (February 2024), pp 8, 39.

[4] K.Simmons, ‘Get the big decisions right and this can be a landmark year for women’s footballs’ The Guardian (25 January 2024) [accessed online here].

[5] ‘Nikki Doucet appointed as NewCo CEO’ The FA (28 November 2023) [accessed online here].

[6] M.Kleinman ‘Top women’s clubs approve £20m Premier League loan’ Sky News (8 February 2024) [accessed online here]

[7] UEFA Statutes 2021 Edition, Art. 48

[8] T.Garry ‘WSL to push for big increase in TV rights after US league lands £200m deal’ The Telegraph (10 November 2023) [accessed online here].

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