Chelsea Women's boss Hayes hails landmark Barclays sponsorship deal

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes celebrates after the match against Arsenal during the Women's FA Cup Final at the Wembley Stadium, London, in this file photo. — Reuters

LONDON — Chelsea Women's manager Emma Hayes has hailed Barclays' sponsorship deal with the Women's Super League (WSL) as a "watershed moment", saying it gives the Football Association (FA) a perfect platform to sell the broadcasting rights to the competition.

The FA said it was the biggest ever investment in British women's sport by a brand, with the BBC reporting it was worth more than 10 million pounds ($13.16 million) over three years until 2022.

"I've been saying for some time that I felt this would be the watershed moment, where we would commercialize the game," Hayes told BBC Sport. "You need somebody like Barclays to say 'I'll be the first'.

"The interest is growing. It's a snowball-effect and I can't see anybody getting in the way of England becoming the best place in the world to play.

"The next big moment is to find a broadcasting platform, putting the game in a position where it has got regularity, a slot, and the best exposure. That's got to be the next big priority of the domestic game."

Hayes, whose Chelsea side won the domestic league and cup double last term, believes the investment is further proof of the rising profile of the WSL.

"Tell me a league in the women's game that can attract a sponsor like Barclays? It is absolutely brilliant news," she added. "This will be the best league in the world, if it's not already. It'll be an unbelievable league in a couple of years."

Kelly Simmons, the FA director of women's football, said the sponsorship deal would make the women's top flight less dependent on the men's teams for financial support.

"We can help make the women's game more sustainable and partners like Barclays can make sure the game has got enough revenue to be professional, and not reliant on men's football clubs' money," Simmons told Sky Sports.

"I think in the next few years, it's really important to build awareness and build the fanbase of people watching on television and coming to the grounds."

Man United to subsidize fans by

matching Barca's 'excessive' prices

Manchester United will hike prices for away fans when they host Barcelona in their Champions League quarterfinal first leg to subsidize tickets for their own supporters traveling to Spain for the return, the Premier League club said.

United, who were allocated 4,610 tickets for the second leg, were informed by Barcelona that the price for away fans at the Nou Camp would be 102 pounds ($134), which British media reported was the most expensive ticket to a United game outside of a final.

In response, United raised their ticket prices for Barcelona supporters traveling to Old Trafford to the same amount and will use the extra revenue to ensure United fans pay only 75 pounds for tickets for the second leg.

"Barcelona confirmed our tickets for this game were to be priced at 102 pounds. In this instance we believe that our traveling supporters are again being subjected to increased/excessive ticket prices from the host club," United said in a statement.

"Similarly to Valencia in the group stages and Sevilla away last season, we have again taken the difficult decision to charge Barcelona fans for the home leg at Old Trafford the same amount that Barcelona are charging for the away fixture (102 pounds).

"We will use the additional revenue gained from this to subsidize our traveling support by paying the 27 pounds price difference for each of our travelling supporters."

Last month, Bayern Munich fans protested against the cost of Champions League tickets by unfurling banners during the first leg of their last-16 tie at Liverpool, with the supporters of the Premier League club also backing them at Anfield.

United host Barcelona at Old Trafford on April 10 and the return leg at the Nou Camp will be played on April 16. — Reuters