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Sunday afternoon, at the venue of this season’s Champions League Final, a 99-year-old record could be smashed as the top two teams in La Liga Iberdrola, Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona meet at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Not since the fabled English works team Dick, Kerr Ladies attracted an estimated 53,000 spectators to Goodison Park for a Boxing Day match with St Helen’s has such a crowd been drawn to a women’s domestic club match in Europe.
All advance tickets have been taken for the match at the 68,000-capacity stadium in Madrid. Of those, over 21,000 tickets have been purchased with the rest claimed by almost one in four of Atletico’s 127,471 socios.
The official European club record of 50,212 at the 2012 Uefa Champions League final in Munich’s Olympiastadion is set to be broken and the world record figure of 51,211 witnessing the Liga MX Femenil Clausura Final between Monterrey and Tigres UANL in May could also be surpassed.
In January, Athletic Bilbao attracted another huge attendance of 48,121 for their Copa de la Reina match against Atletico at San Mames and last May, the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Arsenal was witnessed by 45,423 fans, a third record crowd in succession since the English showpiece was moved to Wembley.
Yet this figure is more than 10 times the largest attendance for an FA Women’s Super League match, set when 4,096 watched Manchester City host Chelsea in 2016 and since the move back to a winter season, English league crowds show no sign of reaching five figures in the foreseeable future.
When Chelsea moved their Champions League match against VfL Wolfsburg to Stamford Bridge in 2016, they attracted only 3,783 fans, a mere 454 more than they did the following season against the same opposition at a sold-out Kingsmeadow.
Only four weeks ago, Atletico hosted Barcelona in the Copa de la Reina at their Estadio Cerro del Espino in front of 3,800 rojiblanco fans. The decision to move Sunday’s La Liga match from the club’s training complex to their main stadium has led to a 15-fold increase in attendance.
So where is Spain succeeding where WSL clubs continue to fall short?
As Alvaro Pascual, from Atletico’s Department of Communication and Marketing explained: “Since the tickets went on sale on February 18, the club has made its best efforts to promote the match in the best way possible.
“We’ve published videos of players from our men’s first team encouraging the fans to attend the match at the Metropolitano and the players from our women’s team have carried out several autograph sessions at the club’s official stores and during tours of the stadium in order to promote the game.”
Atletico captain Amanda Sampedro has said: “I hope Sunday is a party for everyone and, above all, the three points remain in the Wanda.”
Women’s international football is no stranger to large crowds. A world record 90,185 saw the United States beat China in the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final in Pasadena and an Olympic record 80,203 were at Wembley when the US defeated Japan to win the Gold Medal Match in 2012.
Over 600,000 tickets have been sold so far for the Women’s World Cup with the final and both semi-finals at Lyon’s 59,186-capacity Parc OL sold out.
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