Manchester City’s opening derby day victory, a first in the Women’s Super League, was made even sweeter by the fact that they had so many Blues behind them with 31,213 in attendance, which set a new League record.
It was a remarkable record set on that opening day, and one that goes to show that with the right marketing and awareness- largely done via social media and broadcast- the people will come.
Many thought that the number would be eclipsed the following day at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea were set to host Tottenham Hotspur with all of the free tickets activated. Obviously not all of the 41,000 were expected at the ground but a significant amount more than the 24,564 were.
The women’s games at the ‘Minihad’ following the derby have been a Continental Cup game against Birmingham City with 1,456 attending and then a Champions League round of 32 second leg with 946 watching on.
The home game against Birmingham City after the international break will be the first in the WSL at the Academy Stadium this season and will put to the test the number of fans who were gripped and interested enough to come to the derby that wants to continue watching regularly. With City’s average attendance in the WSL last season at 1,409, the second-highest in the division, there is likely to be a healthy increase on that figure but there is work that must be continued to be done if this becomes an increasing trajectory.
A price must continue to be paid
There is a lot of quality on show in the women’s game and for all the work that goes into preparing for games, it is quite insulting to think that some value it for nothing. The thought process behind a one-off game at the Bridge whereby making tickets free can be understood as it makes the game is accessible as possible for fans to go to. On the other hand, it also creates the idea that if the ticket has no worth, then it isn’t a big problem if it’s not used and that seemed to be the case with a section of the Chelsea contingent.
City charged £7 per adult, which also allowed three U16s to go for free. It put a price on the game, showed that thousands upon thousands of people are willing to pay for the game and it also encouraged the next generation of City fans to turn up. Having paid for a ticket, that gives it more worth and certainly puts the responsibility on the buyer to turn up and make their presence felt.
The club will be well aware they can tap into an audience of those who don’t get go to women’s games regularly and that they can do so via charging fair prices for tickets- reflective of the quality of Nick Cushing’s side.
Building atmosphere is a must if games are to be played at the Etihad in future
Although City may have had the more in attendance, the atmosphere was quite subdued for sustained periods during the game. Even with the Manchester City Women’s Official Supporters Group doing their best to encourage others with songs and the drumbeat often heard across the ground it seemed a lot of the youngest Blues were keener to join in as opposed to the older crowd.
On the other hand, despite the Bridge’s slightly lesser numbers, those in attendance backed the atmosphere as being better than at the Etihad and the same was felt as I watched through The FA Player- a new app allowing fans to tune in and watch a range of WSL games live.
That began with the pre-match build-up. City did play ‘Hey Jude’ prior to kick-off but that was it in terms of building the excitement and noise. Chelsea, on the other hand, utilised the pyrotechnics that the men use and used their traditional walk-out song ‘The Liquidator’.
If City are to use the Etihad again in the future, using the 10 minutes ahead of kick-off to warm the fans up of all ages and show what City are all about could be a wise idea. Both ‘Blue Moon and ‘Hey Jude’ could be used alongside potential banners or flares if City were wanting to make it an extra special occasion. That prompts the fans response and when that gets going, the supporters take it from there and do their best to inspire the side from all four sides of the ground.
The Academy Stadium should be cherished
Using the Etihad as on the rare occasions such as the Women’s Football Weekend is a fantastic way to raise awareness of the women’s game and their expertise, though the Academy Stadium is a fantastic home and must be appreciated.
The challenge for the club now in the coming years is to see whether they can accumulate the numbers to not be far off selling-out the ground, though it will surely be a very gradual process to build the crowd.
By doing so, it would benefit the players getting to showcase themselves in front of a near-full ground and the low roofs at the ground will allow for more noise to be built rather than it being sounded out in such a large ground. That can only inspire the players to achieve greater heights.
City may have the record attendance for now- but it won’t count for much unless the club continues to build on the initial success and further the development of Cushing’s side – which they are sure to do for years to come.
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