Speaking at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground in Hertfordshire in an exclusive and rare interview about the women’s game, Venkatesham’s passion for it is evident, as he eulogises about the performances he has watched at Borehamwood and the Emirates.
In the first part of the conversation – published exclusively by Telegraph Sport last Friday – Venkatesham revealed that his eventual aspiration was for the Emirates to become the permanent base of the women’s side.
“The long-term vision is for Emirates Stadium to be the home of Arsenal Women and the home of Arsenal men. It’s hard to put a time-line on it and it’s hard to know for sure if and how we’ll achieve it, but that has to be the vision.”
Such a step would be unprecedented from a “top six” men’s Premier League club.
But what does the future hold for the wider sport? “Where I would like the game to go within that time period [the next 10 years] is for it to become more financially sustainable, so we need to find a way to grow revenues and get revenues closer to costs,” he says.
“What we want is more teams investing in women’s football – we don’t want a league where you have one, two or three clubs that are dominating – you want a league where every given Saturday or Sunday, it’s competitive.
“After Covid, football clubs have been put in more challenging financial situations. At the moment, women’s football is a pretty significant investment, and by that I mean people are paying much more in costs than they’re able to recoup, and that is something that will put people off.
“So we need to find a way to demonstrate that we’re on the path to sustainability, because then it will encourage more people to invest and to get involved.”
He believes the impact of England’s Euros triumph at Wembley in July is already visible. “The players are becoming household names. We’re seeing greater audiences in the stadium, we’re seeing more commercial partners – we’ve just announced our second women’s-only commercial partner – so I really think it’s on the right trajectory.
“At games there’s a fantastic atmosphere and great sport on the pitch, so now people can start seeing it with their own eyes.”
The WSL’s domestic television rights deal, shared between the BBC and Sky Sports, is understood to be worth £7-8 million per year and runs until 2025, but expectations are that the fee could be significantly higher when the next deal kicks in, following the surge in audiences since the Lionesses’ first major trophy. But Venkatesham also wants the clubs to grow match-day revenue.
“You can see already more clubs investing in their training facilities, in their squads, so I think it’s coming. You’re seeing more and more clubs taking women’s football as seriously as we think they should be.”