Big-stadium experiments give Women’s Super League a chance to learn

first_imgTopics Facebook PosTeamPGDPts Manchester City Women There were 24,564 at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea v Tottenham, though all 41,ooo free tickets had been taken up. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images Read more Share on Facebook Twitter When Chelsea announced a Stamford Bridge sell-out within four days of the free tickets being made available, there was similar excitement and praise. But the club peaked too soon, perhaps. A late sales push can have a big effect on momentum around the game and City showed that. Almost 3% of the total attendance were walk-ups on the day, while ticket sales rose steadily from around 20,000 on Monday 2 September.With no hand-in-pocket commitment, the London Blues may have banked on even a 50% drop-off still yielding more than 20,000 fans, and that would be legitimate. But they did not necessarily bargain with the effect of 24,564 in a “sold-out” 41,000-capacity ground – with the added pressure of a sell-out meaning they would top City’s tally.Any figure under a sell-out becomes a disappointment and the conversation beforehand is not about how many they can get but how many no-shows there will be. And Chelsea knew it; they announced the crowd as “just under 25,000” and did not put the actual figure on the big screens.Atmosphere mattersIf the record-breaking crowd at the Etihad created a buzz, it was trumped in south London. The more intimate and traditional environment of Stamford Bridge compensated for the smaller crowd and then some. Chelsea v Tottenham was a partisan derby but with a refreshingly youthful feel. They had clearly worked hard at it. The pre-match pyros used for the men were readied, the Liquidator was played (City did not break out Blue Moon), clappers were distributed and Marvin Humes took to the decks at half-time. One may scoff at the props but to get an unfamiliar and young crowd buoyed and loud, it was effective.Outside, independent traders were out in force and, if ever there was a sign that there is money to be made from women’s football, loathed half-and-half scarves were touted to the public.Building a blueprint“[We now] have a blueprint of how to market this game and our CEO will make sure every club in the country has it. It is about osmosis, it is about sharing information and driving standards and I’m pretty certain that’s why I was put on this earth.” Emma Hayes, the Chelsea manager, said it best. These games are experiments. They are providing a litmus test, the results of which can be fed across the league. The new FA women’s football board with representatives from the WSL and Women’s Championship is key to the FA’s plans for increased collaboration.The matches at clubs’ main stadiums, particularly Chelsea’s (where fans had to be registered to pick up tickets), give the opportunity to collect hard data on the audiences interested in attending women’s football and their other spending and match-going habits.That the opening weekend of the WSL took place on a non-Premier League weekend shows that work is being done to trial the best ways to drive attendances. The Women’s Football Weekend on 16-17 November will also be clear of men’s top-division fixtures, taking a lead from Non-League Day. The Manchester derby being played, and broadcast, at 3pm on a Saturday was another experiment at finding a place to fit women’s football into a busy schedule. Manchester United Women The psychological effects of the drop-offFor Manchester City there was a somewhat cautious approach to talk of ticket sales. With days to go before the curtain raiser, with the numbers having been a closely guarded secret in the preceding weeks, we were told that more than 20,000 tickets had been sold. There were rumours of 25,000-26,000 and, as kick-off ticked closer, the press box buzzed with quiet talk of a possible 30,000. When the figure dropped, mid-game, there was a celebratory mood. It was higher than expected. Public caution, in that respect, paid off. People went away feeling a part of history and not disappointed with a failure to come close to filling the 55,000 capacity. 11Man Utd Women1-10 3Everton Women113 Share via Email Share on Twitter 6Brighton & Hove Albion Women101 Pinterest Women’s football 9Birmingham City Women1-10 10Liverpool FC Women1-10 Players and fans after Bristol City Women v Brighton and Hove Albion Women at Ashton Gate. Photograph: James Marsh/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock Share on Pinterest The glass is half full rather than half emptyAttitudes have changed. The narrative has changed. On the whole, fans, managers and players believe that games should be played in larger stadiums. There may be debate about where, when, how, which fixtures, how often, etc, but there is no doubt that, in some form, these games are seen as the next step in the development of women’s football domestically. Instead of worrying about rattling around in big empty stadiums or losing a somewhat mythical home advantage, we are thinking glass half full, that this is a process.In addition, regardless of the methods, what is clear is that Manchester City’s Etihad test, Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge foray and the smaller-scale affair at Ashton Gate, where Bristol City hosted Brighton in front of a respectable 3,041 fans, should be applauded. The clubs have been brave enough to test and experiment their way to club record attendances. The fans at City and Chelsea made up the bulk of the 62,931 who attended WSL matches over the opening weekend. With the BBC reporting that the number of fans attending across all 110 WSL games last season was around 92,000, it is clear that this edition of the league will be watched in person by more people than ever.center_img Facebook Women’s Super League Pinterest features Women’s sport has valueThe paid-for versus free ticket debate was put to the test in the Women’s Super League last weekend. On Saturday Manchester City charged £7 for adults’ tickets to the first Manchester derby of the WSL era – albeit with the first three kids’ tickets free – whereas Chelsea gave away all the tickets for their game against Tottenham on Sunday. There is no right or wrong way here; there are positives and negatives to both approaches and valuable lessons to be learned.That more fans chose to pay to watch WSL football in Manchester (31,213) than attended for free in London (24,564) is perhaps the clearest indication that ascribing value to the product matters. Making a financial commitment – even a token one – has a big effect. Numerous pieces of research have shown that free events lead to a much bigger drop-off than paid-for ones. 8West Ham Women1-10 12Tottenham Hotspur Women1-10 Chelsea Women Tottenham Hotspur Women Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action Share on WhatsApp Twitter 1Arsenal Women113 Share on LinkedIn Reuse this content 4Man City Women113 2Chelsea Women113 7Bristol City Women101 Talking points• Reading have announced the signing of Norway international Lisa-Marie Karlseng Utland following her departure from Rosengard.• Aston Villa’s Gemma Davies has been named League Managers’ Association manager of the month for August after a perfect start to the Women’s Championship season.• In the Scottish Women’s Premier League, table-topping Glasgow City beat Rangers 4-0. Last year’s runner’s up Hibernian, conversely, scored four after the break against Spartans. Meanwhile, Celtic crushed Forfar Farmington 7-0 to stay three points ahead of Hibs in third, albeit having played a game more, and Motherwell beat Stirling 2-1.• Ada Hegerberg cruised past the 200-goal mark for Lyon as the European champions beat Stade Reims 8-3 on the road.The 24-year-old now has 202 goals in 168 games for the French treble winners.• Barcelona crushed Real Madrid-acquired club Tacon 9-1. Meanwhile, reigning league champions Atlético Madrid beat Sporting Huelva 1-0. Share on Messenger 5Reading Women113last_img

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