Boss wants to see more teams given the chance to grow their attendances by offering fans the ultimate matchday experience, writes Stuart Barker.
Reading manager Kelly Chambers has called for Women’s Super League sides to share stadiums with their men’s teams.
The Royals have been reaping the benefits of playing at the Select Car Leasing stadium since last season, with players able to use state-of-the-art facilities to aid their training and speed up recovery after matches.
Although Chambers can understand why champions Chelsea might hesitate to swap record season ticket sales and sell-out crowds at the 2,265-seater Kingsmeadow for Stamford Bridge, she wants to see more clubs join Reading and Leicester in growing their WSL fanbases by offering supporters the big matchday experience.
She said: “It’s always been an ambition or part of our plan to move to the stadium and the training ground. When we moved there last year, that was actually the first time we’d actually played in Reading as a football club.
“It’s great that we’re able to do that. In terms of facilities, we’ve got everything that our male counterparts would, which suits us. For instance, we’re able to finish the game and go straight into an ice bath. They are not waiting until the next day or waiting until they get home to do that themselves.
“I’d like to think that clubs are working that way [in terms of ground sharing]. For me, it’s a great experience. I also understand that if you look at someone like Chelsea, they can have a sell out at their ground to create an atmosphere that can sometimes be hostile to the opposition. They can create an unbelievable vibe there for a sell-out, whereas if that was at Stamford Bridge it might get swallowed.
“But, yes, I’d like to see it all go that way [to ground sharing]. I think it would grow and help grow our attendances. I’d like to think clubs can see that because it’s not just about coming to watch the game — they’re coming for a whole experience. I truly believe that is a way of growing a fanbase, hopefully they enjoy it so much they end up coming back regularly.
“To move to Reading and build a fanbase was massive for us. There is actually no other ground in town that we can play at which meets the licence criteria. Being outside of Reading over the last four or five years, hasn’t helped in terms of [building] a fanbase.”Embed from Getty Images
Reading are now looking forward to their first game of the new season in front of a home crowd on Sunday, when they welcome an Arsenal side flying high after their opening-day win over Chelsea.
While Chambers admits the Gunners are a different proposition under new boss Jonas Eidevall, with a fully-fit squad and possible debut for experienced former AC Milan striker Natasha Dowie, she remains confident they can claim their first points of the campaign.
She said: “It’s going to be a tough test with the players they have and the additions — they’ve added some unbelievable quality to that side. I suppose you could say they’re in a bit of a transition period with the new manager but he seems to have really got them on board, with how he wants to play and do. I think we will see a frightening Arsenal this season that’s different to many other seasons.
“Everybody has been training all week and is raring to go. We don’t want to push Tash too soon, but she’s had a good, solid week of training so I’m hoping she can be available for the game.
“She’s been great. A lot of people speak about the name that she is and what she can bring and, yes, she can bring stuff on the pitch but, off the pitch, she’s been great in terms of raising standards and making sure that we’re on it constantly. She wants to learn, she’s got that hunger to want to get better, and she wants to drive the team forward. All the additions have wanted to do that.
“There’s no hiding in this camp that it’s going to be a tough fixture but it’s truly one we still believe we can get something out of.”
Follow Stuart Barker on Twitter at @ChuBarker