LONDON: The opening weekend of England’s fast-exanding Women’s Super League attracted 62,921 fans to the opening round of six games, smashing the record for the country’s leading female league.
The total crowd represented a 12-fold increase on the start of the 2018/19 season when 5,167 fans attended the first slate of fixtures. The average crowd for the last campaign was 833, while the total attendance for the entire 110-game competition was approximately 92,000.
The numbers were boosted thanks to Manchester City and Chelsea, whose women played their games at venues used by their men’s teams; the Etihad Stadium and Stamford Bridge.
The two stadiums brought in 31,213 and 24,564 fans, with the former setting a new attendance record for the WSL as City beat newly promoted rivals Manchester United. Chelsea distributed 40,000 free tickets for their clash with Tottenham, of which more than 24,000 attended, over five times higher than their previous highest home matchday crowd.
Bristol City’s 0-0 draw with Brighton was also played at the home of the Robins’ men’s team, Ashton Gate, bringing in more than 3,000 fans.
The spike in interest for the WSL comes after the summer’s Fifa Women’s World Cup, where England came fourth. The decision was also taken to play the opening matchday of the season to coincide with the Premier League ‘s international break to avoid any clashes between the two competitions.
Speaking after her team’s 1-0 win, Emma Hayes, Chelsea Women Manager, said: “Women’s football will continue to grow and I’m so proud of this football club.
“It’s always been our men’s home and for us it’s about taking those opportunities. It is about sharing information and driving standards.
“Now I have to put everyone under pressure to do this more.”
In a bid to attract more fans to WSL games over the season, selected games could also be played as double-header fixtures alongside Premier League matches.
Nick Cushing, Manchester City Women Manager, said: “Hopefully we can drive a lot of people into our stadium. We want the fans to consistently come to watch.
“The logistics of playing two professional teams in the same stadium is so tight. We probably couldn’t realistically do that. We are excited to see where our crowds go. I thought the standard of the game was exceptional.”
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