Attendances at women’s matches across the country this weekend are set to soar as part of a debut initiative from the Football Association.
Following a record-breaking opening weekend in September for the Women’s Super League, when 62,000 fans attended games, the FA announced plans to stage Women’s Football Weekend.
With the Premier League and Championship on hold over the next few days to cater for the latest international break, the FA is turning the spotlight on the women’s game in the Super League and Championship.
Taking centre stage is the maiden north London derby Super League clash between Spurs and Arsenal, and the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton, with the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Anfield both being used for the first time.
Spurs Women normally play their matches at National League Barnet’s The Hive Stadium, 13 miles away, and with a capacity of 6,500.
Spurs are marketing the game as “an unmissable day out for all the family”, with numerous attractions forming part of the show, including a half-time talk with former USA World Cup-winning coach Jill Ellis.Former USA manager Jill Ellis is guest of honour for Spurs’ north London derby with Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. (Jeff Holmes/PA)
Although the club is keeping the number of tickets sold under wraps at present, to run out at the 62,000-capacity stadium means the world to the players involved.
Defender and club captain Jenna Schillaci told Spurs TV: “To play at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will be a really special day for all of us.
“The first north London derby, and any Tottenham and Arsenal fan will know how much that means, and it means just the same to us as players.
“As a Spurs fan myself, it’s just the stuff dreams are made of.”
Liverpool are hopeful of a 15-20,000 crowd, the PA news agency understands, although early estimates are difficult because of the way the club are ticketing the event.
Tickets are on sale until 3pm on Saturday, with a £5 adult ticket also allowing three under-16s to be added for free at the time of purchase.
A large number of concessionary tickets have also been distributed to local schools, football teams and residents via the LFC Foundation and the club’s Red Neighbours scheme.
The Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand and the Kop are being opened for the game, with Everton’s fans housed in the lower Anfield Road stand.
Liverpool manager Vicky Jepson told the club’s website: “We always wanted to play at Anfield this season.
“But before we just jumped right in and threw a fixture to play here, it had to be the right fixture at the right time and, for me, there’s no better fixture than a derby.Anfield is being used for the first time for a women’s game as it hosts a Merseyside derby with Everton . (Dave Howarth/PA)
“It will be nice to hear the fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ when our players walk out onto the pitch and I want them to experience that more than I want to experience it myself.”
On this season’s opening day, Manchester City and Chelsea boasted crowds of 31,000 at the Etihad Stadium – a Super League record – and 24,000 at Stamford Bridge.
Although neither ground is being used this weekend, both clubs are expecting first-time sell-outs for a league game at their regular venues, with 7,000 for City’s clash with West Ham at the Academy Stadium, and nearly 5,000 for the Blues’ game against Manchester United at Kingsmeadow, the home of AFC Wimbledon.
Regarding the FA’s initiative for this weekend, which is planned as the first of an annual event, City midfielder Caroline Weir told the club’s website: “It’s huge for the game.Manchester City’s Caroline Weir believes the FA’s initiative is another boost to the women’s game in this country . (Martin Rickett/PA)
“Weekends like this encourage people to come out and watch – it’s what the game needs. There’s a lot of momentum at the moment in the women’s game, so it’s about carrying that on.”
Brighton are also hoping for a bumper crowd as they play at the Amex Stadium instead of at League Two Crawley’s Broadfield Stadium.
Speaking at a press conference, manager Hope Powell said, “We feel really privileged and humbled to be able to play here again, and we want as much support as possible from the fans, to emulate or even exceed the support we had for the Arsenal match last season.
“This game is part of the club’s ambitions to increase the women’s fanbase, and exceed expectations across the board.”
Reading’s game with Bristol City takes place at the Madejski Stadium, rather than Adams Park in the hope of attracting a larger-than-normal attendance.
In the Championship, there is another London derby as Crystal Palace face London City Lionesses at Bromley’s Hayes Lane, while there is also an all-Midlands clash as leaders Aston Villa take on Coventry United Ladies at the Butts Park Arena.
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