Women's football: FA wants to triple WSL crowds by 2024

Last month, only 1,342 people attended Chelsea's FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City at Academy Stadium.
The Football Association hopes that the Women's Super League crowds will be three times larger by 2024.

Although attendance has declined since Covid-19, new broadcast deals have seen huge increases in viewing.

The average attendance at the league dropped from around 3,000 in 2020-21 to just 2,282 this season, prior to the last round of matches.

The FA believes that the average would rise to 6,050 in three years. This would make it a major sell-out for many clubs.

Kelly Simmons, the FA's director for the women's professional sport, stated that "Our priority is to sell out the [women’s] stadiums we are in in 2024."

"Pre-Covid, we had large crowds in the men’s stadia and then we started to sell-out some major games in women's grounds.

"We want that growth to continue. We will consider alternative stadiums and other options if we reach the point where we sell out more frequently [in women's ground].

Simmons was discussing the FA's three-year women’s football strategy. It outlines financial sustainability, growing audiences, and producing and attracting top talent.

Simmons responded to a question about the marginal decline of crowds and said that they knew of "some challenges".

She said that "from the research we did about the Lionesses match at Wembley we found that there were still concerns among fans regarding coming back to large live events and using public transportation."

"Fans haven't been able come to games in a while so we need to create that habit. Sky and BBC have an amazing opportunity to increase awareness and bring back fans.

While some WSL grounds do not have the capacity for 6,000 fans, Simmons stated that the FA will work with each club to reach their goal.

WSL needs more female coaches

Gemma Grainger and Carla Ward are both part of the FA's coaching mentoring program.

The FA also aims to have a 50/50 ratio of female and male coaches in the WSL.

Seven of the 12 clubs in the WSL are currently managed by men. Half the Women's Championship clubs have female head coaches.

Simmons stated that they were 50-50 at one point last year, then fell to a slight male majority in WSL. "All that we can do is increase the number of female coaches, and give them the best chance of success.

"There is a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure that these women have the best chance. Look at the European Championships and World Cups to see how many women have achieved great success in women's global football.

The FA is currently running a mentoring program for elite female coaches in the game. This includes Gemma Grainger, Wales boss, and Carla Ward (Aston Villa manager).

Improving diversity and becoming a "world leader"

Demi Stokes, England and Manchester City defender is one of the most prominent players in the country

FA stated that it will monitor the number minority-ethnic players who are accepted into girls' academies as well as regional training centres.

As part of their focus on "producing world-class talent", they hope to diversify the grassroots talent pool.

The England women's team has fewer black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME), players than the men's. There are nine BAME players in the current men’s squad, compared with three in the last women's squad.

Simmons said, "We've been working together with some pilot clubs across the country." It's all about the location and accessibility.

"Because budgets are tight, we tend not to place the academies near the inner city. It's not the most accessible. We'll make some announcements in the first quarter of this year.

Another goal is to make the WSL financially viable within five years.

The FA has openly accepted offers from outside organisations to manage the league. They are still exploring commercial partnerships.