While the January transfer window will be remembered as one of risk aversion in the Premier League, the stage has been set for a transformative era in the Women’s Super League.
Significant money was spent as Chelsea signed Mayra Ramírez from Levante for a world-record fee of €450,000 (£385,000) and Manchester City parted with £200,000 to acquire Laura Blindkilde Brown.
We are still some way away from the eye-watering figures in men’s football, but this does feel like a prelude to the women’s game’s first £1m transfer.
This anticipation reflects remarkable growth, with transfer records getting broken on a near-yearly basis as a result of increased commercialisation, attendances, media rights deals and visibility.
The enhanced coverage and interest has turned players into household names and created a 24/7 rumour mill as fans expect marquee signings.
There has been a shift in a willingness to invest in players not just for their playing ability but commercial value too.
Deloitte estimates the women’s game will generate global revenues of £1bn in the coming years and WSL chair Dawn Airey believes the competition could be the first to hit such a figure within the next decade.
With more money coming into the game, it is no surprise that a Fifa spending report showed that international transfer expenditure in women’s football more than doubled to £2.4m last year, while the volume of transfers also increased by 19.1 per cent.
Get ready for more activity – and a potential domino effect – this summer too with stars such as Mary Earps, Fran Kirby and Alexia Putellas among those available on free transfers.
However, growth does not come without challenges and spending has raised concerns over a widening gap between top clubs and those already struggling financially.
Hope Powell, the Lionesses’ first full-time coach and now Women’s Technical Director at Birmingham City, has stressed the importance of maintaining a connection between the top end of the game and grassroots football.
The theory behind this is to ensure the professionalisation of women’s football benefits players across all levels and protects a pathway that some have argued has been lost in men’s football.
Long-term sustainability and development have to be the priority, but January underlined that the women’s game continues to move in the right direction.
Ben Peppi is head of sport services at JMW Solicitors.