Women's football received another huge boost on Saturday and Sunday with a combined 74,247 fans flocking to games in the top flight on the inaugural Women's Football Weekend.
The men's international break was used as a great opportunity for extra attention to be given to the women's game. And, with a smorgasbord of top-draw fixtures in the Women's Super League being played both at women's teams' home grounds and the more glamorous surroundings normally reserved for their male counterparts, supporters certainly made the most of the occasion.
The first ever women’s north London derby set a new record attendance for a WSL game, with 38,262 watching on at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as visitors Arsenal recorded a 2-0 victory, including a sell-out 3,000 away fans. The result kept the Gunners in the title challenge alongside Manchester City and Chelsea, while Kim Little bagged the first goal ever scored in a women's fixture being Spurs and Arsenal. That crowd figure marked a new high, superseding the 31,213 record gate which saw the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on the opening day of the new season in September.
Elsewhere, the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton drew 23,500 to Anfield, dwarfing the 16,500 capacity of the Reds' regular women's home ground - Tranmere Rovers' Prenton Park, which is the biggest stadium regularly used by any WSL side. Everton edged the Anfield match-up 1-0 to leave Liverpool Women rooted to the bottom of the table and winless after six games. Appropriately, as is the norm in a men’s first-team match in front of the Kop, a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rang-out around the historic venue as kick-off approached.
Thank you Reds for your incredible support. ðð´
In another stand-out match, Chelsea defeated Manchester United 1-0 to send the Red Devils down to fifth. Though that fixture took place at the Blues' women's regular Kingsmeadow home, rather than Stamford Bridge, the 4,790 in attendance set a new record for a match at a registered women's stadium in England.
To put this weekend's attendances into perspective, the average attendance in the WSL in 2018/19 was just 833, with a combined total gate across the whole season of just 92,000.
Off the back of the most successful Women's World Cup in the sport’s history, a tournament that saw England reach the semi-finals only to be defeated by eventual champions the U.S.A, the women’s game received both greater exposure and a host of new fans.
This campaign's average WSL attendance is now up by 4000, that’s a remarkable 313% increase on last season. As reported by Katie Whyatt of The Telegraph, this hasn’t been wholly down to the sporadic fixtures which have been played at the men's stadia - even without that privilege the average attendance is up by 45% - an average of 425 per club.
Such amazing figures suggest women's football is set to continue its fantastic rise in the wider public conscience.
The reaction to the first ever North London Derby goal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ð
The WSL, peppered with now-recognisable names that have legitimately become the subject of pub and water-cooler talk, has thankfully received greater backing. A promotion throughout the campaign narrated by former footballer, pundit, and I’m A Celebrity contestant Ian Wright has encouraged more diverse support from fans to not only follow the club, but the women’s division attached to it. “A people’s club needs all of its people,” states the Arsenal legend. “You’ll never walk alone, and neither should they. It’s only united when we are.
When you support a club, you support all of it.
Well that was most certainly demonstrated during this record-breaking weekend.