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THE success of the Women’s World Cup this summer demonstrated that there is a rapidly growing appetite for women’s football.
This looks certain to continue into the new season with record crowds flocking to Women’s Super League matches.
Saturday’s Manchester derby between City and United drew a record-breaking crowd of over 31,000 to Eastlands — equalling almost 60 per cent of the average Premier League attendance at the stadium last season.
Further south, Chelsea hosted Spurs at Stamford Bridge in front of around 25,000 spectators along with many more who watched the match live on TV.
The previous WSL record of 5,265 was set just last season when Arsenal clinched the title at Brighton’s Falmer Stadium.
There can now be no doubt that there is a market for women’s football and the FA must invest accordingly.
Likewise, clubs must make efforts to elevate their women’s team and give them access to training and match-day facilities.
Ultimately, there is no reason that the men’s and women’s teams of a club could not play their home and away fixtures on alternate weekends to avoid fixture clashes.
If backed by clubs and the FA and supported by initiatives to raise the profile of women’s football, fans are increasingly likely to get on board.
Due to the biological, physical limitations on the performance of female athletes in comparison to male athletes, nobody would argue that the women’s game will be of an identical standard to the male game.
However, this in no way negates the entertainment value of the sport or the fact that female players are at the top of their respective game.
There are currently plenty of sports in which the men’s and women’s competitions run side by side and carry equal gravitas.
Tennis and athletics are notable examples which have given us celebrated female athletes such as Serena and Venus Williams, Martina Navratilova, Maria Sharapova, Jess Ennis, Paula Radcliffe, Kelly Holmes and Sally Gunnell.
There is a tendency for football fans to feel like every change to the game is a politically correct attack on one of the last remaining beacons of working-class culture.
Fans fiercely defend football culture from threat and women’s football is often perceived to be one such threat.
But the female athletes who they scorn hail from the same working-class backgrounds as they do and have grown up with the same love for the game.
Rather than shun women’s football, existing fans would do well to extend the terrace atmosphere to the women’s game in an act of working-class solidarity.
Embracing women’s football as part of the working-class tradition, instead of allowing it to fall to corporate sponsors and plastic fans, is an act of defiance against the modern game.
Football is our sport, no matter which sex is playing it.
This article first appeared on 0161 — 0161festival.com.
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