It’s been a whirlwind eight months for Casey Stoney as head coach of Manchester United’s first professional women’s team. Stoney spoke to Offside Rule Exclusives about changing the face of the women’s game and why the winter league format isn’t working, Charlotte Duncker writes.
Manchester United Women’s head coach Casey Stoney believes moving to a winter league has had a detrimental effect on support at games.
The decision was made in 2016 to switch to the current September to May format in line with the men’s game and is in its second season but, Stoney preferred the original summer league which previously started in March.
Since forming last summer United have drawn record breaking crowds with over 4,000 turning up to their first home game at Leigh Sports Village back in August. But, Stoney believes United’s high numbers are skewing the figures for the rest of the league.
“The attendance figures will say the winter league is working,” Stoney told the Offside Rule Exclusives.
“But that’s because Manchester United have come into the league and the figures have increased. If you take United out, attendance would be down.”
Stoney believes bad weather and postponement of games has had a big impact on the decrease in support but admits there were problems with the summer league.
“I don’t know what the answer is,” Stoney admitted. “The problem with the summer league was the breaks we had to have during major tournaments and there were inconsistencies around it.
“For me it’s about investing in marketing and commercial to get people to the grounds.”
And that’s something she thinks United have done successfully since the start as they’ve seen fans of the men’s team coming to support the team, who sit second in the Women’s Championship.
“I’ve seen huge changes since I have been at Manchester United in terms of the support and level of support, the strategy, the commercial, everything,” the former England international said.
“There’s been quite a lot of transfer, we don’t just have women’s football supporters – they support the men’s and women’s game which is great. What the club had already put in place before I even got on board was incredible.
“They treat it exactly the same as the men’s game and deliver in the same way.”
One of the reasonings the FA gave behind moving to a winter league was that it would help England win the World Cup in 2023.
Before then the squad will be hoping for success in this summer’s competition in France and Stoney expects Phil Neville’s team to reach the semi-finals again.
“Semi final,” Stoney replied when asked what England should be aiming for.
“Are the players good enough to get there? Yes But you need luck in a tournament, you need players in form and sometimes the draw can help too.”
Follow Charlotte on Twitter @CharDuncker
Launched in 2017, The Offside Rule Exclusives is our Webby-nominated monthly podcast hosted by Lynsey Hooper, Kait Borsay, and Hayley McQueen. It features in-depth interviews with some of the biggest names in football like Phil Neville, Jermain Defoe, and Casey Stoney.