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November 19, 2019

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Women’s league matches draw crowds

The drive to raise women’s football attendance in England is taking on a more persuasive tone, almost obliging supporters of the men’s game to see the quality on offer.

The Women’s Super League campaign — “a true fan supports their whole club” — contributed to record attendances on Sunday as the post-Women’s World Cup boom continues in England.

“It’s quite edgy and a little bit sort of punchy,” Kelly Simmons, director of the women’s professional game in England, said at Tottenham Hotspur, which drew a WSL-record crowd of 38,262 for the visit of Arsenal.

While hostilities between the north London rivals go back around 130 years in the men’s game, this was the two teams’ first WSL derby.

“It was incredible to be part of it,” said Arsenal captain Kim Little, who broke the deadlock in the 66th minute before Vivianne Miedema sealed a 2-0 victory to stay third in the 12-team WSL.

Arsenal brought 3,000 fans across the British capital to add to the tribalistic atmosphere being encouraged.

“Little things like getting booed when taking a corner was a weirdly nice experience,” Arsenal striker Beth Mead said, “because it’s part and parcel of the game.”

Tottenham’s men reached the UEFA Champions League final last year, but the club is only a few months into having a fully professional women’s outfit after gaining promotion.

“It’s momentous for Spurs Women, to see how far we’ve come,” said Karen Hills, joint manager of a Tottenham side sixth in the standings. “The players deserve to be playing in front of these big crowds. Hopefully it won’t just be an occasion, hopefully it will be the norm.”

The crowd surpassed the 31,213 at Manchester City for the visit of Manchester United on the opening weekend of the season in September.

There has been an upward trajectory in attendances since the Women’s World Cup when England reached a second successive semifinal in July.

The cumulative crowd across six WSL games on Sunday was 74,247, taking the total after six rounds to 184,926. The figure across the entirety of last season was 107,141.


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