Women’s football: FA wants to triple WSL crowds by 2024

Only 1,342 attended Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City at the Academy Stadium last month

The Football Association wants crowds in the Women’s Super League to be three times bigger by 2024.

Attendances have decreased since before Covid-19 but a new broadcast deal has seen viewing figures increase hugely.

Prior to last weekend’s round of matches, the average attendance across the league has dropped from “around 3,000” in 2020-21 to 2,282 this season.

But the FA hopes the average will increase to 6,000 in three years, which would be a sell-out for most clubs.

“Our priority in 2024 is to sell-out the [women’s] stadiums that we are in,” said the FA’s director of the women’s professional game Kelly Simmons.

“Pre-Covid we had some big crowds in the men’s stadia then we were starting to sell-out some of the big games in the women’s grounds.

“We want to continue that growth. When we get to the point when we start to sell-out more regularly [in women’s grounds], it gives us a really nice problem where we will look at alternative stadiums or seek other options.”

Simmons has been discussing the FA’s latest three-year women’s football strategy, which outlines plans for financial sustainability, growing audiences and producing and attracting world class talent.

When asked if there were concerns by the marginal decline in crowds, Simmons said they were aware of “some challenges”.

“From the research we did around the Lionesses game at Wembley, we found there are still concerns among fans in terms of coming back to big live events and using public transport,” she added.

“Fans have not been able to come to games for some time so we have to recreate that habit. We have a fantastic opportunity with Sky and the BBC to build that awareness and sign-post fans back.”

Some grounds in the WSL do not currently have the capacity to hold 6,000 fans but Simmons said the FA will work with individual clubs to achieve their goal.

Increasing female coaches within the WSL

Carla Ward (left) and Gemma Grainger (right) are among those on the FA’s coaching mentoring scheme

Another target for the FA is to achieve a 50% ratio of male and female coaches within the WSL.

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