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Season start in England's women's league: family outing with 31,000 people


With the first Manchester derby the Women's Super League started their most important season. The big question after the World Cup: How to thrill football fans in everyday life?


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The first Manchester derby in the history of the Women's Super League (WSL) had two highlights. One was in the square, the other came over the speakers.

Manchester City's Scottish international Caroline Weir scored the only goal in the 48th minute with a magnificent shot into the corner, which ensured the vice-champions' surprisingly narrow 1-0 victory against Manchester United at the start of the season. In the 74th minute, the stadium spokesman gave the audience by the cheers of the audience.

More than 31,200 people had gathered in the stadium where usually City's men are at home. This is the record for a women's league match in England. Already on this Sunday the best mark should be broken again. Last year's match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur on Stamford Bridge, which the Londoners won 1-0 on Sunday, saw more than 40,000 tickets played, but for free. The tickets for the Manchester Derby cost seven pounds.

Whether you want to grant free admission to attract new viewers or devalue the sport is one of many debates that accompanies the English women's football at the start of the season. It is clear that this is the most important season in the history of WSL.

Craig Brough / Action Images via Reuters

Packing season opener in front of record crowd

In the wake of the World Cup, the WSL hopes for an upswing. The requirements are good. The league has recently got a name sponsor. The Barclays bank, from 2004 to 2016 namesake the Premier League, pays the WSL over three years more than ten million pounds. For the first time, the only full-time professional league in Europe can pay out prize money. The champion gets at the end of the season 100,000 pounds, for the bottom of the table fall after all still 6000 pounds.

The association broadcasts all games live on the Internet and concluded TV contracts in Scandinavia and Central America. With the rise of Manchester United and Tottenham, WSL has gained two big names, two brands known from men's football. This contributes to the profiling of the league. There is now a Manchester derby and a Northern London derby.

Three-way fight for the championship

Sporty is to be expected with tension. Champions Arsenal have to prepare for a three-way battle for the title with Manchester City and Chelsea. Also Manchester United could play a good role, as the promoted showed in the narrow defeat in the city duel. "The game makes us believe that we can keep up," said United coach Casey Stoney after the match in the interview zone.

Other crucial questions, however, are not about titles and trophies. It is rather to answer: How do you get the people regularly in the stadium? How do you manage to sustainably increase the average attendance (833 in the preseason) with the momentum of the World Cup?

Catherine Ivill / Getty Images

Close enough to touch: Here, Jackie Groenen from Manchester United poses for a photo with fans

"We have to address a different group than the men," said Maggie Murphy the day before the season opening the SPIEGEL. She is the general manager of FC Lewes, who has just received a UN award for having the women's team in the second division the same budget as the men in the seventh.

She believes, "There are many people who like football but do not know it because they are deterred by crowds, alcohol or maybe the fear of violence, we need to create a pleasant footballing experience." For United coach Stoney is important, "that people know when and where we play".

Where is a problem: United's women's stadium is outside of Manchester and is difficult to reach by public transport. It's similar for other WSL teams. That's better for Manchester City. The Academy Stadium, with seating for 7,000 spectators, in which the team usually runs, is just a footbridge away from the men's venue. It is ten minutes by tram from the central Piccadilly train station.

Like a big family outing

The league had chosen the date for the start of the season in the international break good. Even the weather - always a risk factor in Manchester - played along. It was a sunny afternoon in late summer. The mood at the Derby recalled a big family outing. The male-female ratio was balanced. You saw significantly more children in the stadium than in Premier League games. But many older people were there, who probably go to the games of the men.

In the 74th minute they all cheered together. Since the audience record was announced.

Source: spiegel

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