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Rachel Corsie: Should WSL games be broadcast during Saturday 3pm blackout?

In this week's column, Scotland and Aston Villa captain Rachel discusses the record-breaking viewing figures in the WSL last weekend and what can be done to improve them even more.

Chelsea forward Lauren James, right, takes on Liverpool defender Jenna Clark in a WSL match at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea's win over Liverpool set a new viewing figure record for a WSL match shown on the BBC. Image: Shutterstock.

When it comes to growing the women’s game, it’s important to start new discussions and be open to new things.

This week there has been a lot of chat on the broadcast of FA WSL matches, after both the BBC and Sky saw record-breaking figures in matches over the weekend.

Chelsea’s 5-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday on the BBC was watched by 955,000 viewers at its peak, with an average of  796,000, while on Sunday Manchester City’s 3-2 derby win over Manchester United on Sky was watched by 589,000 at its peak.

I don’t think it is a surprise because those four clubs have big followings and the derby fixture had a fair share of drama with plenty of goals and a City red card.

The figures are really positive and really encouraging.

It is a just reward for the people who have been pushing for the games to be on mainstream channels at prime times. There will have been many a hurdle and hoop to jump through to get to this point.

It shows the growing audience is there, but, of course, there is always room for even more progress.

Earlier this week, Niall Slone, the ITV director of sport, said WSL games should be broadcast during the 3pm Saturday blackout – when no men’s matches are shown on TV.

A record number watched a WSL game on Sky last weekend. Image: Shutterstock.

It is an interesting idea and one I think would be worth considering. We have to be open changing things up.

I know as a football fan, I would not expect to see games on the TV at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon because for as long as I can remember that has always been the case – but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

If more and more WSL games were to be shown at that time, then people who want to watch those matches would look to create new viewing habits.

When WSL games, such as the Manchester derby, are shown at prime times it had all the bells and whistles of a Sky Sports Super Sunday fixture. It reflects the channel’s willingness to utilise their resources and that improves the standard of the viewing experience.

There are of course other things to consider.

What is the demographic of WSL fans currently doing on a Saturday at 3pm? Would it make people reluctant to go and watch the matches from the stadiums? Is there too much football already played at that time on a Saturday afternoon and could that have a detrimental impact?

I don’t know if it is the right answer to grow viewing figures even more, but it is an important aspect of the growth process.

We have to be willing to take a shot on things. If it has a positive impact than that is great, if it doesn’t then there is another opportunity to learn from and adapt the approach.

Villa find their rhythm with four wins on the spin

After a difficult start to the season, things are feeling much more positive at Aston Villa having won our last four games on the spin.

We knew we had to turn things around and we’ve done that with two wins in the WSL and two in the Continental Cup.

We had a player meeting, which was overseen by the staff, and we all agreed amongst ourselves that our expectation in November was that we had to start reflecting the team we used to – and want to – be.

It is pleasing that we have been able to do that more in recent games. There is a good togetherness.

When things aren’t going well, there is of course pressure to get the results. We have done that and it is a testament to the character we have shown in the games.

There have been a lot of changes in the matches and different players have been utilised. A lot of people have contributed in different ways and have played really well.

Kenza Dali returned to the team following an injury and she is a massive player for us. She’s a talented individual, but her involvement gives other people a lift because they enjoy playing with her.

I think as a team we have found our rhythm a bit more, especially the attack-minded players, and with that comes more confidence.

Kenza Dali in action for Aston Villa. Image: Shutterstock.

It has been a good couple of weeks and we want to keep building the momentum. We play at Villa Park for the second time this season when we host Everton on Sunday afternoon.

We love playing at Villa Park. We love playing at our usual home ground in Walsall, too, but Villa Park is the club’s main stadium and it does bring an extra good feeling.

The match-day experience is different when we play at Villa Park, even down to little things like the changing rooms gives you an extra lift ahead of stepping out on the pitch.

We have had some really enjoyable moments at Villa Park in previous games and want to repeat that on Sunday. We want get even more fans along to the stadium and give them a reason to celebrate.