The Women’s Super League returns this weekend after a record-breaking summer of spending by some of England’s biggest clubs.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City all broke their transfer records as they look to prevent champions Chelsea from winning a fifth successive title this season.
City’s £300,000 signing of Netherlands midfielder Jill Roord from Wolfsburg set a new benchmark for the WSL, while Arsenal’s payment to Swedish side Hammarby for Australia star Kyra Cooney-Cross could end up exceeding that, depending on her performance.
United, meanwhile, made Barcelona and Brazil forward Geyse their most expensive signing ever in a £256,000 deal.
It comes amid a boom in women’s football, sparked by a landmark WSL TV deal which took effect in 2021 and the success of the Lionesses, who finished runners-up at this year’s World Cup after winning the European Championship last summer.
The transfer fees being spent are still a fraction of the sums changing hands in the men’s game, where Arsenal set a new Premier League record with the £105m signing of England midfielder Declan Rice from West Ham in July.
But they are increasing rapidly. Fran Kirby’s 2015 move from Reading to Chelsea represented a WSL record at the time but cost just £50,000.
Chelsea’s £250,000 signing of Denmark forward Pernille Harder from Wolfsburg raised the bar in 2020 and was in fact a world record at the time.
It has since been surpassed on the global stage by England midfielder Keira Walsh’s £400,000 switch from Manchester City to Barcelona last summer, while this year’s fees in the WSL have also outstripped it.
Arsenal were willing to eclipse the Walsh deal in January when they bid close to £500,000 for England forward Alessia Russo. Manchester United rejected the bid and Russo saw out her contract until the end of the season, when she joined Arsenal on a free transfer.
It hasn’t just been this summer. Tottenham Hotspur gambled on the WSL-record equalling signing of Beth England from Chelsea in January and her goals fired them to safety.
And the recent flurry of deals has not been restricted to a handful of mega-signings. Both United and Arsenal have paid multiple six-figure fees, for Gabby George and Laia Codina respectively.
Chelsea haven’t been sitting on their hyands either, however. USA forward Mia Fishel’s £196,000 arrival from Mexican side Tigres was the biggest of several high-profile deal done by Emma Hayes’s side.