Jacqui Oatley chats to Female First all about the Barclay's FA Women's Super League on Sky Sports
Jacqui Oatley chats to Female First all about the Barclay's FA Women's Super League on Sky Sports

The Barclays FA Women's Super League is being given a huge platform on Sky Sports this season, but lead commentator Jacqui Oatley believes some the English game's top clubs could do much more to promote their own teams.

In an exclusive interview with Female First, the respected broadcaster has called on all clubs in the WSL to promote the game to as wide an audience as possible in a bid to boost crowd sides that are often in the hundreds rather than the thousands.

How big a boost it is for the WLS to be live on Sky Sports this season?

It is massive for the game. This is going to be new and different and the fact that we will have the full force of Sky Sports News behind it is exciting. People should not have to go looking for women's football anymore and the game deserves this coverage now.

It's time to promote it to a new audience and instead of saying this is women's football, let's take the first part of that description away. This is just football, you don't need to put the word women's in front of it.

Crowd sizes are still in the hundreds for a lot of WSL games, so how can clubs help to encourage people to come to games?

Some of the WSL clubs could make big improvements in their marketing. One or two of the big clubs didn't have any mentions of their women's team with the WSL starting the next day. 

They have millions and millions of fans to target on the social channels and a huge marketing team working at the club, but they are not all using those resources to promote the women's team. How do they expect people to come to stadiums and to attract an audience if they are not even telling their fans that matches are on? It infuriates me. These players deserve the platform we are giving them on Sky Sports and they also deserve big crowds backing them when they are playing, so hopefully some of the clubs that are coming up short in promoting the women's matches get their act in order.

Are we wrong to compare the women's game to the men's Premier League?

If you watch a Premier League game and try and compare it to a WSL game, people might say it is not as fast or criticise the goalkeeping. So let's not compare. It is different, but let's celebrate the differences and avoid trying to find fault in them.

You have to appreciate that a lot of the players we see in the WSL have not had top-class coaching since they were children, the goalkeepers have not worked with professional coaches as the boys have.

What we are starting to see how is talented girls who have been coached from an early age coming through and they will be able to realise their full potential. That is a really exciting prospect.

The players now playing in the Super League are the best group we have ever had playing in England and that is why we are in for the best season we've ever had.

Women in football are often on the end of criticism and abuse on social media, so how have you dealt with abuse that comes your way?

There is still a large percentage of people out there who think football is a mans game and we don't need women involved. When a woman has an opinion, it can spark vile abuse purely based on their gender and it can incite a pile on in social media land.

You need to have a thick skin as a woman working in football. You can't say it doesn't affect you because we are all human at the end of the day and I'm a big fan of supporting colleagues and giving them backing when I see one of these incidents blowing up. I'll be straight on WhatsApp or direct messaging them on Twitter to offer some support and that can be important when these moments happen. You might face a storm for a couple of days and it will pass and that's the reality. It is hard to stop people from posting vile comments and while we can mute and block people who send them, it's important to see the bigger picture when these issues blow up.

Who is your pick to win the WSL this season?

Chelsea have to be the favourites, looking at the talent they have in their squad. You look at their bench and they have a wow factor as they have international team captains in reserve and they also have an excellent coach and man manager in Emma Hayes. 

I'm really interested to see how Arsenal get on this season. They have a manager who is highly rated in Sweden and I think their players are going to love working under Jonas Eidevall.

Manchester City have some great talent and it will also be fascinating see how Everton do. They have strengthened with some top players this summer and it is great to see the investment that has gone in there. 

Sky Sports will show at least 35 games exclusively live this season as well as lengthy build-ups, post-match analysis and daily news.

Words by Kevin Palmer for Female First, who you can follow on Twitter, @RealKevinPalmer.

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