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