FA WSL: Is the FA Women’s Super League moving in the right direction?

As the top tier of women’s football in England comes to its conclusion for the 2016 season, Emily Magee looks at the continual growth of the FA Women’s Super League.

Manchester City secured double silverware in October, as the Sky Blues were crowned FA WSL 1 and Continental Cup champions – and they had an extra incentive for celebration after becoming the first women’s club in British football to average crowds of more than 2,000 over a season.

When City relaunched in 2014 and were promoted straight in to WSL 1, they came not only with a long-term plan to grow women’s football in Manchester, but also to push the progression of women’s football nationwide.

This has definitely come to fruition for Nick Cushing’s side – the highest single attendance for a WSL match in 2016 was the 4,096 crowd that watched City clinch their first title beating Chelsea.

The Head of Women’s Football, Baroness Sue Campbell, recently claimed that the FA hope other women’s football clubs can learn from Manchester City and share ideas to continue the growth of the game.

As City continue to thrive in WSL 1, FA WSL 2 attendances also continue to rise with an increase of 30 per cent – the average rising from 341 in 2015 to 443 in this campaign.

And, one club in particular who are making incredible steps are WSL 2 champions Yeovil. The Somerset club have increased attendances by almost 60% in 2016 with an average of 742. These figures can only bode well for their promotion to WSL 1 next year.

However, some clubs in the top flight saw home support fall in 2016. In some cases, on the field results correspond with the numbers through the gates. This was the case for the likes of Liverpool, Sunderland and Notts County, who all reported a decrease in attendances.

Sporadic scheduling of Women’s Super League matches has caused real concern this season – having gaps of between three and four weeks between fixtures makes it increasingly more difficult to build attendance.

Nonetheless, concerns have now been heard and the switch to a winter league, which will begin from the 2017-2018 season, should amend the scheduling issues and in turn impact the numbers in the crowds.

Whilst this growth may seem minimal it is certainly a step in the right direction and with the hopeful impact of England playing in the European Championships in the Netherlands next summer, it is progression towards The FA’s commitment to double attendances by 2020.

Follow Emily on Twitter at @Egmagee

1 Comment on FA WSL: Is the FA Women’s Super League moving in the right direction?

  1. Martin Whiteley // November 14, 2016 at 1:01 pm // Reply

    To me a newish league can only truly grow on how strong the base of their pyramid is, e.g. the teams at the bottom. Nine teams for this year seemed to be pushing it now and that proved to be the case. The bottom three sides, all promoted from FA WSL 2 in recent times won just four games out of 48. Doncaster, who were in the top flight for the first three years of Super League were 39 points behind Manchester City over only 16 games, (scoring eight goals and conceding 48) and now the league will have 10 sides next year. Surly you want a league that is as competitive throughout as possible. I would rather see for example Chelsea play Man City three or four time, with good crowds than either side playing a team near the bottom twice. Can you attract enough commercial or spectator interest if there is too big a gap in the standards of the teams?

    Top players may also be reluctant to come to Super League if they only have a competitive match every few games. The strides that Man City are achieving will only be truly beneficial to both themselves and the league if they can get enough other teams to follow their commitment. How much you invest in a clubs women’s side is important, but also is the commitment to do it for many years to come. The talk of Manchester United not having a women’s team seems to assume that because they have lots of money they would be benefit the league, but without the commitment and continued investment they could damage the league if the players were not of a good enough quality.

    Hopefully Super League will be around for many years to come and continue to grow, but now less could be more, until enough clubs show they can put together a squad that makes it a much more competitive league from top to bottom.

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