- English FA hold first ‘Women’s Football Weekend’
- North London and Merseyside derbies set for big stages
- Yearly event hoping to draw new lovers of women’s football
The past year has been a special one for the women’s game. While the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ was a big success, club football has played its part in projecting visions of a bright future.
Having just seen Wembley pack almost 78,000 in to watch England host Germany, top-class club stadiums up and down the country will host Women’s Super League matches during the FA’s first annual ‘Women’s Football Weekend’ to take place on 16 and 17 November.
The first top-flight North London derby will take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, while Liverpool women will walk out at Anfield for the first time in the Women's Super Leage against neighbours Everton. Brighton and Hove Albion and Reading will both use the clubs’ main stadia, too.
“It’s about taking women’s football to new audiences, keeping up the momentum and ultimately encouraging fans to come back and watch the team regularly in greater numbers,” FA Women's Professional Game Director Kelly Simmons told FIFA.com.
The format has proven successful in the past. ‘Non-League Day’ has been a fixture of the British football calendar for almost a decade and the framing suited women’s football as well.
“For a while in the women’s game we’ve been talking about doing something similar,” Simmons explained. “For all the thousands who normally watch high-level men’s football, this weekend why not go and support your local side?"
This follows on from an opening weekend that similarly took advantage of filling the void left by England’s top two men’s divisions during the week of international football.
But while the big crowds and premier stadiums have seen Simmons and others in the game “reset our level of ambition” on how quickly the game can bloom, she’s not letting the wave of enthusiasm carry her away.
“Job one is to sell out the women’s stadiums regularly. That will give a great atmosphere and a good experience for those watching on television and then build from there.”
The view from the pitch
While this is big for fans and clubs, it’s set to be a special weekend for many players, too.
- Tottenham Hotspur captain, 35
- A born and bred Spurs fan
- Now in her 11th consecutive season with them after first featuring back in 2000
“When I re-signed for Tottenham (in 2009), I was about to quit playing. It was only because a friend was training with them that I went down. They only had three staff members and I loved it from the minute I got there.
“Looking now on that time, never in a million years would I have thought we’d be playing Arsenal at the new Tottenham stadium. It’s going to be an amazing day for everyone involved in the club and it shows how far the club’s come.
“When I was growing up there was nothing like this. The only time I could watch women’s football was once a year for the women’s FA Cup final on TV. If I’d had the chance to go down and watch the Tottenham women, I’d have been there every weekend.
“I also think the women’s game is so different to the men’s game. We have a lot more interaction with the fans, getting to inspire the next generation at all of our games. If they want to be professional footballers now, they can be.”
- Liverpool forward, 20
- A life-long fan who came through the Reds’ academy
- Featured at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2016
“Everyone dreams of going to Anfield as it’s such an iconic stadium and, especially with the men doing so well and the atmosphere it creates, there’s no better place.
“I can remember the first time I went, and I was completely overawed by the occasion because I was such a little kid and it was everything I dreamed of. There are pictures of me outside and I was just silent for the whole day because it was just unbelievable.
“[Playing there] is something you think about and maybe dream about, but you never think it will actually happen. My mum said the other day: ‘You’re actually going to be on Anfield. You’ve grown up talking about it, going to it and now you’re actually doing it.
“My close family are Reds, but all my extended family – who are big footballers – are all Blues. It really tests them coming to support me! They’ll definitely be at Anfield, though my uncle has been known to come in an Everton shirt, so there’ll be torn loyalties!”