WSL: Record ticket sales as 2022-23 season prepares to kick off

Chelsea celebrate winning the 2021-22 WSL title
Chelsea clinched the 2021-22 title on the final day with a 2-0 triumph over Manchester United

Clubs are enjoying record ticket sales as the Women’s Super League prepares to kick off this weekend and capitalise on England’s memorable summer success in the European Championship.

Ten of the 12 sides will play some matches at the larger main stadiums used by their male counterparts.

Arsenal are set to break the WSL attendance record after selling 40,000 tickets for the North London Derby with Tottenham later this month.

Manchester City will welcome a sell-out crowd for their opening match against the Gunners on Sunday, and Brighton are hopeful of a record turn-out against Aston Villa.

Meanwhile, Reading have five times the amount of season ticket holders compared to last year after increased interest following the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 triumph.

And champions Chelsea have sold out their 1,500 season tickets for the second season in a row.

Arsenal have sold more tickets for their match against Spurs at Emirates Stadium on 24 September than the combined total of their four matches there last season.

The current record for the division was set in the reverse fixture at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2019, with the game drawing a 38,262 crowd.

“That Euros fever is still very much alive and I hope it’s not just going to be a summer thing,” said England captain and Arsenal defender Leah Williamson.

“It’s up to us within the game and those working around it to make it visible.”

Admission to WSL matches is a fraction of the cost of Premier League games, with season tickets ranging from around £45 to £80.

They have typically taken place in smaller grounds, and in some cases several miles from the major stadiums where men’s football is played.

However, FA women’s football director Kelly Simmons told BBC Sport that the sport was “working really hard” to “amplify the biggest games” by increasing the number of fixtures held at ‘men’s’ stadiums.

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Opening weekend fixtures

Saturday (All times BST)

Spurs v Man Utd 12:30 – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Sunday

Chelsea v West Ham 12:30 – Stamford Bridge

Everton v Leicester 13:00 – Walton Hall Park

Brighton v Villa 14:00 – Amex Stadium

Reading v Liverpool 14:00 – Select Leasing Stadium

Man City v Arsenal 19:00 – Academy Stadium

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‘This year’s peaks will be even higher’

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes, who marks a decade in charge of her club this season, said: “Women’s domestic football still has a way to go. Only in the last 12 months have we been able to schedule fixtures with any consistency, plus have broadcasting slots with some consistency.

“Yes, everybody selling out the opening day weekend would be fantastic if that is to be the case. But for me it’s about how many of those are we capturing to be returning fans?

“I think it will have peaks and troughs throughout this year, but I think the peaks will be bigger than last year and the lows still higher than last year’s lows. And average attendances all round the game will be spectacularly different.”

Asked what the WSL needs to grow further, Hayes told BBC Radio One’s Newsbeat: “I think people have to realise that – take aside the top two to three clubs – there are still a lot of clubs under-resourced. They might not have the levels of expertise or resource to maximise growth on same level.

“There still has to be a lot more investment into their infrastructures to compete on and off the pitch in the same way – and a levelling up across the game which will take a period of time.

“I’ve always been an advocate of leaving the FA and into a separate entity, because I believe we could take the expertise from somewhere like the Premier League to help clubs build on their models. It will happen, it’s just when.”

Emily Oram, 43, has supported Arsenal’s men’s team for a number years, but in the past few seasons has become more of a fan of the women’s team. This season, she bought a season ticket for the women’s team for the first time.

She told BBC Sport: “I went to a couple of games last season, and it was just really great fun. It was a great crowd. I’d always been a little intimidated to go to men’s games at the Emirates, so that sort of piqued my interest and then having been lucky enough to get tickets for both the opening game and the final of the Euros, that was really what inspired me to get the season ticket for the WSL.

“The attraction was the crowds, the enthusiasm of the crowds and diversity of the crowds was a big factor as well. It can often feel like you’re not necessarily welcome within the men’s game, but within the women’s game, there seems to be no boundaries to who can attend the games and enjoy them and be welcome.

“And also, the quality of the play is just fantastic. The Euros final was one of the best football games I’ve ever been to, full stop.”

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Club-by-club guide

ARSENAL

Usual home ground: Meadow Park, Borehamwood. Three WSL games at Emirates Stadium.

Season ticket sales are up from 750 to 1,500 for this season.

More than 2,500 spectators are expected for the opening home match at Meadow Park against Brighton on 16 September, compared with 2,045 at their first game there a year ago.

ASTON VILLA

Usual home: Poundland Bescot Stadium (Walsall FC). Three matches at Villa Park.

Season ticket sales have more than doubled compared to the last campaign.

Around 5,000 tickets have been sold for their first home game against Manchester City at Villa Park on 18 September. Last season’s home opener was at Walsall, with an attendance of 741.

BRIGHTON

Usual home: Broadfield Stadium (Crawley Town FC). First two home games at Amex Stadium.

With more than 4,000 tickets bought for the opening home match, that has surpassed sales for each of the two matches played there last season.

Their record women’s crowd is 5,265 v Arsenal in April 2019 and that could well be beaten for Sunday’s match against Aston Villa.

CHELSEA

Usual home: Kingsmeadow, Kingston upon Thames. Opening game at Stamford Bridge.

Champions Chelsea’s match against London rivals West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Sunday will be shown live on BBC One.

The club do not issue match ticket sales figures for games but all 1,500 season tickets have sold out for the second year in a row, and were snapped up five weeks before the season started.

EVERTON

Usual home: Walton Hall Park, Liverpool.

Everton have sold more than double the number of tickets for Sunday’s match with Leicester than last season’s first fixture at Walton Hall Park against Birmingham.

The game is set to sell out at the venue, which has a capacity of 2,134. The previous best attendance there was 840 against Manchester United last season.

Everton’s women have played at Goodison Park in the past and could return in the future. An open training session there last month attracted 1,000 spectators.

LIVERPOOL

Usual home: Prenton Park (Tranmere Rovers FC). Face Everton at Anfield this month.

The Merseyside derby clash with Everton on 25 September will be Liverpool women’s first fixture at Anfield since November 2019 when 23,500 attended.

LEICESTER CITY

Usual home: King Power Stadium (Leicester City FC).

Leicester, who again plan to play their home games at the main ground used by the men, say season ticket sales have more than doubled.

Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium will be used as an alternative venue if/when fixture clashes do happen.

MANCHESTER CITY

Usual home: Academy Stadium, Manchester; Game at Etihad v Man Utd in December.

All tickets for Sunday’s match against Arsenal at the 7,000-capacity Academy Stadium have been sold, with the attendance set to top their previous record at the venue of 5,317 against Man Utd in February.

The crowd for the corresponding fixture versus Arsenal last year was 2,355 with less than half that number attending the opening game against Tottenham.

Around 20,000 tickets have already been sold for City’s game against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium in December and the team have seen record season ticket sales – double the number compared to last season.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Usual home: Leigh Sports Village. Playing Aston Villa at Old Trafford in December.

Manchester United usually play their home games at Leigh Sports Village, starting with a match against Reading on 17 September.

They clocked up the biggest attendance of last season’s WSL when 20,241 people saw them play Everton at Old Trafford, and they will return there to face Aston Villa on 4 December.

READING

Usual home: Select Car Leasing Stadium (Reading FC).

The club has over 500 season ticket holders this season compared with 98 at the start of the last campaign.

They also look set to smash their women’s attendance record of just over 2,200 fans for Sunday’s fixture against Liverpool – with well over 1,000 more tickets sold than for the first home match 12 months ago against Arsenal.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Usual home: Breyer Group Stadium (Leyton Orient FC). At Tottenham Hotspur Stadium v Man Utd, Sunday.

Tottenham’s women have moved from Barnet FC’s Hive Stadium to Leyton Orient’s ground.

They plan to play at the main Tottenham Hotspur Stadium when scheduling allows, and will kick off the WSL season there against Manchester United on Saturday.

“The stadiums that we play in coming off the back of the Euros should become more of the norm really,” said manager Rehanne Skinner.

“It’s just part of the conversation that we have the opportunity to be in and around the locality of the fanbase. The bigger stadiums attract fans in a different way,”

WEST HAM

Usual home: Chigwell Construction Stadium (Dagenham and Redbridge FC).

Paul Konchesky’s first game in charge sees West Ham travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on Sunday,.

The Hammers play at Dagenham and Redbridge’s ground, where Everton will be the first visitors of the new season on 18 September.

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