England women’s football boss, Phil Neville has called for clubs to hold women’s matches at their stadiums. The Football Association has been discussing where women’s Autumn friendlies could take place, in a bid to use larger stadiums.
Neville has called for Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to “throw open” their stadiums. Attendance at Women’s football is increasing, with 60,739 watching Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 2-0 in March. That’s more than the 59, 215 fans who turned out to watch Spurs’ first match at their new stadium earlier this week…
There’s still some way to go to beat the record attendance for women’s football in the 1999 World Cup Final between the USA and China, which saw over 90,000 fans gather at the Rose Bowl in California. However, without larger stadiums to play in, women’s football isn’t able to reach new heights, despite an obvious demand.
Neville’s bid to encourage attendance does come at a cost, when asked if clubs should offer free tickets to match goers, he asked “Why not? Let's blow away the rest of Europe”
He commented that there’s more sustainability in women’s football in England, compared to some European locations, where attendance is quite low.
“What I would say is that some of the big teams in England now have got to open their big stadiums and fill it. I think our game in this country is at a far better place than what it is in Spain and Italy.”
Neville isn’t the only one who is encouraging clubs to open up their stadiums, the FA’s head of women’s football, Baroness Campbell has said they’re in conversations with much bigger stadiums and wouldn’t rule out the likes of Old Trafford and Etihad Stadium to host games next season.
Neville’s Lionesses play Canada tonight at Manchester City’s Academy stadium, which can hold up to 7000. Despite seeking larger stadiums, Campbell addressed what some may have described as a lack of ambition in terms of stadium size for the match.
“Manchester City have been amazing partners for us, they have invested massively in the women's game…. we want to be more ambitious, we want to fill much bigger stadiums, but equally we want to continue to respect and work with the partners who have got us where we are, so we have to make those judgement calls.”
In addition, Manchester City women boss Nik Chushing has commented on the importance of fans of women’s football in general, not just supporters of specific clubs. Commenting on last season’s FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Arsenal which saw the largest English crowd in the modern era, with 45,423 spectators he said;
“The FA Cup final crowd weren't just fans of the clubs involved. There were a lot of general fans of women's football as well.”
“What we try to do is put a product on the pitch that encourages supporters from the men's team to come and watch us too.
“We wear the same kit. It has the same badge on it and we have the same passion and desire to be successful.”
What do you think, do you think women’s matches need to be free to encourage people to attend or is the issue that larger stadiums aren’t opening up to allow more fans to attend?