This weekend, one of the season’s biggest games will take place.
An FA Cup semi-final pits the top two teams in the country against each other, just before both take on stellar European opposition in the Champions League semi-finals, too. They are neck and neck in the league, neck and neck in the Cup and neck and neck in Europe, too. To boot, they boast some of the best players in the game, and indeed for the England national side.
That will be Chelsea Ladies who take on Manchester City Women on Sunday afternoon.
Women’s football is one of the few remaining growth areas for football, especially in the UK. As Premier League clubs scour the world in search of new fans and commercial partners, growing a women’s team appears to be the last place they can look in terms of growing their brand in the UK. As such, both Chelsea and City have emerged as the powerhouses of the women’s game in the country – as well as in Europe – and they’re beginning to merge the male and female teams more and more on social media, too.
As any sports team would, Chelsea’s Ladies side have a social media presence of their own, but more and more the club are making use of the club’s male players in their output.
Alongside the likes of Eden Hazard, Fran Kirby and Karen Carney may not quite have the same star power, but they are increasingly recognisable thanks to the growth of interest in women’s football.
One of the reasons for the growth of the game is the way it’s being made accessible to the wider public in a way that is both easy to dip into and – for the most part – free of charge.
The Women’s Super League has agreements in place to show one game a week on the BBC Sport website as well as one on Facebook Live and one on BT Sport, meaning that those who are interested in dabbling or finding out more about the sport can dip their toes in the water easily, or can follow fairly comprehensively without having to pay subscription fees.
European competition, however, hasn’t been picked up by broadcasters. But last week’s Champions League quarter final between Chelsea and Montpellier was streamed live by the club itself on Facebook Live, whilst other highlights of games as well as behind-the-scenes training footage can be found on the various social media channels.
Not having hard and fast rights deals with broadcasters is an opportunity for a league like the WSL to experiment with different ways of distributing its content, and excitingly it is also a chance for innovative clubs like Chelsea to broadcast their own games and promote them with their own social media megaphones.
By getting some of the men’s team’s star players on board via social media, too, the club is lending even more weight to women’s team and women’s football in general.
Despite all of that, though, the battle between Chelsea and Manchester City could potentially be fought out on three fronts: and that thrilling battle between two teams at the top of their game could be what sparks the most interest.