Salford City lionesses booked their place in the Manchester FA Women’s Challenge cup final with a 4-3 win over Manchester Stingers on Sunday, but the domestic women’s game in England has still got a long way to go to catch European nations such as Italy and Spain.
Dreams of a quadruple live on for the Lionesses in their debut season, despite only forming in the summer, joining the increasing list of clubs in England to adopt a Women’s team.
However, a bumper crowd of just short of 40,000 flocked to the Allianz Stadium to watch the Juventus Women’s side extend their lead at the top of the league with a 1-0 win over Fiorentina, emphasising the gulf between Women’s football in England and other European nations.
39,000 fans turned up to see Juventus Women win their first-ever game at the Allianz Stadium 👏
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 24, 2019
This was the first time that the Women’s side had played at the Allianz Stadium and the excitement in the stands was clear to see as the previous record attendance for a women’s match in Italy was more than doubled.
Italy is not the only place on the continent that is clearly a hit for Women’s football. Exactly a week prior to the Lionesses booking their place in the final of the FA Women’s Challenge Cup, the world record attendance for a Women’s game was set in Madrid, with 60,379 fans attending Atletico Madrid’s clash against Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
🏟 ¡Récord histórico de asistencia a un partido de clubes!
🏧 ¡Hoy somos en el Wanda @Metropolitano 60.739 espectadores!
👏 ¡Gracias, afición, por hacerlo posible! 👏
👉 https://t.co/TcsQpcrnRd#AúpaAtleti #AtletiBarça pic.twitter.com/hzFNvX4IAq
— At. Madrid Femenino (@AtletiFemenino) March 17, 2019
What is perhaps even more remarkable is a crowd like this was not necessarily a big surprise in Spain as, last month, a huge 48,121 fans were in attendance for Athletico Bilbao Women’s Copa del Ray match against Atletico Madrid at the clubs San Mame’s stadium – over double the attendance of the men’s team game in the Basque derby at Real Sociedad’s Anoeta Stadium.
But why is it that women’s football struggles in England in comparison?
A big reason has to be the venues. European clubs are getting the opportunities to turn out at huge stadiums, creating a much superior buzz and excitement around the fixture. This is not often the case in England.
The Reading Women’s team are a great case study to show this as they play 26.3 miles away from the club’s Madejski stadium. Similarly, the Salford City Lionesses do not play their home fixtures at the Peninsula Stadium.
The success of the Salford City Lionesses shows progression of Women’s football in England as more and more clubs in England, including Manchester United, continue to form women’s teams but is clear that there is still a long way to go if the domestic game is to catch up with the European giants.