Women’s football rose to new heights of popularity this past summer thanks to the 2019 World Cup, and many are hoping to ride that wave as long as possible, including the Women’s Super League (WSL) in England.
To that effect, the opening round of matches in the new season this past weekend were held in venues (and therefore in front of crowds) far larger than usual. Manchester City (at home versus Manchester United) set a new record for the WSL with over 30,000 in attendance, for example, while Chelsea (at home versus Tottenham Hotspur) were not far behind at just under 25,000. Combined with the FA making all games available streaming online for free, and the clever scheduling that put the games on international break weekend, the combined audiences were surely unprecedented for the league.
Chelsea Women boss Emma Hayes’ hoping this is just the beginning.
“Just before kick-off, as the Chelsea fans are starting to make an atmosphere, the Spurs fans start chanting and I think, “Happy days!” This is what we’ve worked towards. We’ve built on the momentum of the World Cup, with the timing of the game, and now I have to put everybody under more pressure to say I want more of them! All of you [journalists] make my job easier in that regard. It’s about sensible conversations.”
Chelsea started the game in a fashion just as brilliant as the occasion, with Beth England scoring a spectacular long-range goal, and while the Blues were unable to add to that lead, it did not take away from the special significance of the occasion.
For Hayes, it was an afternoon to validate all the goals towards which women’s football has been striving, as well as to validate the support she’s been getting from the club in general since taking over the women’s team in 2012.
“Should we have won this game by a bigger scoreline? But it’s not about goals, it’s about winning games – and we’ve won a lot today.
“Women’s football will continue to grow and I’m so proud of this football club. Everyone has employers they say, ‘I loved working for them’ but I doubt I’ll ever work at a place that has pushed for women to progress like this place has. I’m so happy for Roman Abramovich, Bruce Buck, Guy Laurence and people who have been with us from day one too. Everybody was so committed to today.”
-Emma Hayes; source: Chelsea FC
This weekend was the start. Here’s to many more special, and mundane, occasions in the future, be they at Stamford Bridge, at Kingsmeadow (where the team usually play), or around England and Europe.