In the past few years, there have been record attendance numbers for women’s football games. So why aren’t WSL teams granted bigger stadiums?
Games played at stadiums such as the Etihad and Wembley Stadium have been one-off events.
The teams then eventually falling back to their usual home ground, barely fit for the fifth tier of men’s football. So why aren’t WSL teams granted bigger stadiums?
The success of these events has left many fans and pundits alike wondering why the two genders cannot work in tandem. Would it be feasible for Manchester United Women to play at Old Trafford when the men play away games? If the fixture lists of both the Premier League and WSL were created in collaboration this could be easily arranged.
Supply and Demand
Many skeptics question the logistics of this idea by arguing the demand for tickets would be too low. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In November, 38,262 fans watched the North London Derby at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. This broke the attendance record set only months prior when 31,213 people flocked to the Etihad to watch the Manchester Derby.
The white half of North London usually play their home games at The Hive, home to men’s National League outfit Barnet. While the blue half of Manchester play on their men’s academy pitch. These venues hold 6,500 and 7,000 respectability which is a colossal difference to the crowds north of 30,000 that the WSL has proved it can attract.
Hindering the Growth of Women’s Football
There is one reoccurring question that always crops up when discussing attendances in women’s football. Why do people who attend the men’s fixtures not make the effort to attend women’s matches where possible?
The answer is simple. By denying the team access to the main stadium you often end up pushing them away from the area.
An example of this is Arsenal’s men’s team. They are a North London team based near Islington. Arsenal Ladies, on the other hand, play at Meadow Park in Borehamwood, forcing any fans wanting to attend games to add twelve miles onto their usual commute. This journey in particular is not even on the tube map making the inconvenience outweigh the desire to attend the game.
The distance almost disassociates the three-time WSL winners from where the club comes from.
If the women were given the green light to play at The Emirates then more fans would be able to attend. This is not a problem exclusive to the Gunners, Chelsea play seven miles from Stamford Bridge. Brighton even play an astonishing twenty-one miles from the Amex.
Meeting in the Middle
A commonly suggested solution is to compromise and simply ground share with a bigger club. This would allow WSL sides to play in stadiums with a bigger capacity without moving any further away from where they already play.
We have already seen that clubs can ground share without any issues. Arsenal share with Borehamwood, Tottenham share with Barnet and Manchester City share with their academy.
This means that a WSL side ground sharing with a bigger club should pose no problems with regards to practicality. Bigger clubs play fewer games per season than a non-league side.
The possibilities are endless. The United Kingdom is filled with sporting venues and it is surprising that WSL teams aren’t granted bigger stadiums.
The 40,000 seater stadiums might still be out of reach for the time being but there are many alternatives.
For example instead of Tottenham playing infront of 7,000 at Barnet why not play at QPR with 18,000 fans behind you.
Chelsea Ladies could wave goodbye to Kingsmeadow to take 20,000 fans down the road to Millwall.
Arsenal fans could stop making the commute to Borehamwood and just take 27,000 on the underground to The Valley in Charlton.
Not only are these grounds a similar distance but its been proven that they could easily be filled to capacity. Helping the sport progress further by tripling matchday revenue is the way forward.