Kelly Simmons looks back at the first half of the domestic season

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays FA Womens Super League - Emirates Stadium
Arsenal and Spurs played in front of 47,367 fans at the Emirates in September. (Liam Asman/SPP)

This weekend sees the final set of Barclays Women’s Super League fixtures ahead of the winter break, with some big fixtures taking place, including matches at Villa Park and the Etihad Stadium. Director of the Women’s Professional Game, Kelly Simmons, reviews a remarkable first half of the 2022/23 season off the back of a momentous and triumphant summer.

Coming into the 2022/23 season, we knew that we had an extraordinary opportunity to introduce the Barclay’s Women’s Super League and the Barclays Women’s Championship to new audiences. The Lionesses’ victory at this summer’s UEFA Women’s EURO propelled the women’s game in this country to new levels, and it was important for us to capture and capitalise on that momentum.

It has often been said that a successful women’s England team will help generate interest in the domestic game. This is certainly true, and I have been really overwhelmed by the response we have seen from fans – new and old – in the first half of the season.

I am delighted to reveal that since the season commenced, we have seen almost 300,000 spectators attend matches across the Barclays Women’s Super League. This just highlights how much appetite there is for world class women’s league football. We are currently averaging almost 6,000 fans a week in the Barclays Women’s Super League as we go into the final league fixtures of 2022 – which is up over 200% on this time last year. The Barclays Women’s Championship is also performing brilliantly, with the average attendance up over 85% on this time last year.

This season we’ve seen records smashed across a number of areas, including an individual club attendance record when Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur played in front of 47,367 fans at Emirates Stadium in September, which contributed to a combined 89,381 fans across Game Week Two in the Barclays WSL– another impressive number and up over 20% on the previous record.

I feel our decision to continue playing matches through the Men’s FIFA World Cup has also been proved right by some of the attendances we have seen. Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and The Emirates have attracted big crowds in the middle of the biggest football tournament in the world, which really does highlight that we are making great strides in the right direction – and that there’s the appetite and the desire for fans to follow both the men’s and the women’s teams.

Manchester United v Aston Villa - Barclays FA Womens Super League - Old TraffordManchester, England, December 3rd 2022: Celebrations after Leah Galton (11 Manchester United) scores the second goal during the Barclays FA Womens Super League game between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford
Manchester United hosted Aston Villa at Old Trafford last weekend. (Natalie Mincher/SPP)

It’s not just in the Barclays Women’s Super League where we have seen impressive attendances. Sheffield United broke the club record for the division last month when they attracted 11,137 to Bramall Lane for their match with London City Lionesses. That number contributed to a combined game week record of 17,500 for the division. There’s only five points that separates the top five teams, with the league again showing how competitive it is, with promotion likely to go right down to the wire.

Since the EUROs, there has been a wave of positive sentiment towards our leagues and the brilliant players within them, and I feel their personalities, talent and abilities have shone through during the first half of this season. More matches in the men’s stadiums has been incredible to see, helping to grow attendances and the popularity of the teams. And the reach and availability of watching live matches across the BBC and Sky Sports has also played an important part in attracting new audiences to our game.

It really has been the most special start to the 2022/23 campaign and clearly there is even more excitement to come as we head towards the second half of the season.

But before then, there are still plenty of big moments to come, and we have some fantastic fixtures this weekend that you can get yourself to on Sunday afternoon, after you’ve cheered on the England Senior Men’s team against France on Saturday night.

On Sunday, we have one of our most anticipated fixtures of the season, the Manchester derby at The Etihad, as well as Aston Villa hosting Arsenal at Villa Park, plus four other BWSL fixtures to enjoy. Only six points separates the top four teams in the table, so there’s everything to play for over another important weekend.

The league has been enthralling thus far and if you want a live football fix on Sunday, then I would definitely recommend getting down to a Barclays Women’s Super League fixture near you. You can cheer on your team, enjoy the brilliant atmosphere and be part of a historic first half of the 22/23 season.

A big thanks to the fans, who have shown commitment, passion, and energy since Match Day One. It is you that helps us to continue breaking records and moving forward, and I implore you to continue supporting and enjoying our teams, players, leagues and competitions as we head into 2023. I’ll be at the Etihad on Sunday for the Manchester derby, and I can’t wait!

Vitality Women’s FA Cup 3rd Rd: Bristol City face Southampton again

Would you like to read more women’s football news just like this? Sign up to receive the She Kicks Women’s Football newsletter