ITV’s sport chief has backed calls to make women’s football an exception to the Saturday 3pm blackout that prevents matches being broadcast live in the UK.
Women’s Super League coverage currently competes with men’s football programming, restricting its ability to maximise audience and attract new followers.
Former England captain Karen Carney’s review of the women’s game this year suggested tackling that problem by using the Saturday 3pm slot as a WSL live TV showcase.
“I think the three o’clock space is one that should be utilised, because where else can women’s football fit into a weekend?” said ITV director of sport Niall Sloane.
“It is quite hard to find those slots. If that was preserved for women’s football I don’t think it’s going to impact the Premier League, the EFL, the non-league pyramid.”
Appearing at a Culture, Media and Sport committee hearing on Tuesday, he added that he would support trialling women’s football in the Saturday 3pm slot.
BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said there was “a lot of logic” to using that slot but said it didn’t have to be Saturday afternoon.
“One thing that is really important is scheduling and giving women’s sports some space,” Slater told the committee.
“At the moment it’s a very congested football schedule. So it’s whether football can come together to find a solution to give a window, an appointment to view, for women’s football.”
Sky Sports managing director Jonathan Licht warned against seeing the 3pm slot as a panacea, saying it could cause clashes.
“A couple of things to think about, as well as scheduling, is facilities. A lot of clubs are ground-sharing, so that has to be considered,” he said.
“I understand and can see the perspective on 3pm because, as it stands, it’s the only one at the moment where clearly no other football is being broadcast so I can see why you would naturally fall to a conclusion that that would be attractive.
“I do think it may not be so clear-cut though, because it’s the time when more people are attending football than any other time.
“I’m not saying it’s not going to work. I’m just saying I think let’s not necessarily put all our eggs in that basket and that it’s going to be a great ‘unlock’.”