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NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman exclusive: On next steps of reform, calendar decisions, media-rights deal, Utah

• Berman lays out tangible steps NWSL has taken since joint investigation report on systemic abuse
• NWSL is at ‘inflection point’ in global landscape; discussions ongoing on how to evolve
• New media deal could come by summer; linear and non-traditional options being explored

Photo Courtesy Utah Royals FC

With the March 25 first kick of the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League looming, The Equalizer quickly caught up with NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman around the official confirmation of the Utah Royals’ return for the 2024 season.

Beyond the topic of Utah — which you can read about in depth here — Berman provided updates on tangible next steps being taken in the league’s systemic reform, where discussions stand as the NWSL weighs its scheduling options (including exploring the idea of a fall-to-spring season), and what the next media-rights partner needs to offer to the league as its popularity grows.

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The joint investigation report detailing systemic abuse in the NWSL came out in December. There is still work to be done from that, and that release also offered an opportunity for the league to start moving forward. The new season is only two weeks away. What are you focused on right now?

We always talked about the three goals being fact-finding, corrective action and systemic reform. With the publication of the report being done, and the corrective action as the result of the investigation being done, we are laser-focused on systemic reform. That won’t be as disctrete as a one-time event. We are extremely aware that this is going to be an ongoing process, iterative, and we’ll learn as we go whether what we’re doing is having its intended impact. Most importantly, keeping lines of communication open with the union and players about how the changes we’re making are being received and what other areas we can focus on.

I can give a couple of examples. We launched our first ever league-wide training program, in person. We have a team of experts who are traveling to every single market before the start of the season to talk about our anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policy, and what the channels of communication are for reporting, and to make sure players know what their rights are. We’re also doing complimentary training for our coaches and for management so that they understand what’s expected of them.

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