Mark Sampson’s women’s England team who currently sit seventh in the FIFA world rankings, anticipate an atmospheric home crowd fixture with Germany on Sunday 23rd November. The England squad are seeking victory on their Wembley debut after successfully qualifying for Canada’s 2015 World Cup. Nine wins from nine, and netting 42 goals and conceding might fill the squad with confidence as the England team encounters a challenging adversary.
England’s recent spell of form and appealing style of football is flourishing, which appears to be reflected in record ticket sales. A 55,000-strong crowd of supporters are to attend this historical fixture. England’s previous largest crowd was 29,092 at the Etihad Stadium for a Euro 2005 victory over Finland. London Underground engineering work set on the fixture date has appeared to uplift crowds and overcome the commuting challenges.
While the men’s International friendly with Norway on 3rd September attracted a remarkable 40,181 fans, the women’s game surpassing the men’s ticket sales figures for the first time in history, marking the women’s national squad down in history. It may be that the greater influx in ticket sales for women’s’ games poses that a new generation of women’s football is materialising.
Indeed, the FA describes this expediential growth of women’s football viewing figures as a result of the ‘Game Changer’ strategy. ‘Game Changer’ is a five-year scheme launched on October 24th, 2012 by the FA. The overall objective of the strategy aims to revolutionise women’s football by transforming it into the second most popular sport in the UK.
More specifically, one objective is to expand the women’s Super League divisions in the UK. Since the Women’s Football League (WFL) currently consists of four divisions, (an eight-team Super League, ten-team Super League 2, twelve-team Women’s Premier North and twelve-team Premier South) a prosperous revival scheme is set to launch by the 2016 season. An improved WFL targets a 72-club strong league, containing six regional divisions (Premier League Northern and Southern divisions, Division One South West, Division One South East, Division One Midlands and Division One Northern). The FA women’s director Kelly Simmons stated, “Expanding the FA WFL will provide a strong, sustainable structure and is one of our long-term aims.”
While the current women’s domestic football clubs appear set to prosper with the 2016 expansion scheme, the International women’s FA are likely to also be appreciative. WFL growth may result in improved domestic competition, resulting in players developing faster. The National squad aims to harvest the rewards of the growth of talents across the six regional leagues.
Another striking pledge is aimed at the big English Premier League clubs in. At present, Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea are exclusively responsible for having female equivalent teams in the Women’s Super League. The six- division expansion is likely to encourage more high-profile men’s clubs to launch women’s teams. Manchester City supposedly registered an interest in getting involved. “We’ve had inquiries from big men’s football clubs about when the process is opening up and I’m hopeful we’ll see some big names in there,” revealed the head of the national game. High profile men’s clubs could integrate their resources, stadia, training facilities and coaching expertise with their female equivalents. This support aims to certainly provide teams with a myriad of opportunity for growth.
With the recent influx in ticket sales, how might the women’s game continue to develop in the future?