Now that the buzz of the goals and the drama and the celebrations (for the Blues at least) has started to die down, let us not forget the thrill of the atmosphere at Wembley – both for those within the stadium and those watching on screens at home and across the world.
I commented in an interview at the end of the year that one of my women’s footie highlights from 2021 was the rousing and palpable crowd-generated tension in the air at kick off of last year’s cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea. It was passionate and partisan, it even bordered on hostile but without any underlying menace, but it was there. It only lasted a few mins yet it has stayed with me. I had only ever really experienced that kind of ‘fan-based frisson’ at the biggest of women’s international matches (Germany v Canada and USA v Japan in 2011, Sweden v Germany in 2013, England v Canada in 2015, or France v USA in 2019 anyone?) and even then it has rarely hit the levels of many of the men’s matches I have been to that have fried my mind, heart and ears. Sunday’s final between Chelsea and Manchester City felt like the women’s club game in England had stepped up a notch and it turns out it was a feeling shared by many, especially those that have followed the sport for many years because I got this in my ‘electronic mailbag’ the next evening from Claire Forrester (Choc), who some will know as the former assistant editor on She Kicks and press officer at Sunderland during their WSL days. She felt compelled to write it and it is worth sharing. Take it away Choc…
This weekend’s women’s FA Cup final was obviously a great success. The game was fantastic and even though we are not supposed to compare the women’s game to the men’s, it was definitely the better match. One thing that struck me most though was the atmosphere. I have been to A LOT of women’s football matches all over the world and I’ve seen tiny crowds (Grenada national team) and huge crowds (USA women’s national team). A big crowd does not guarantee a great atmosphere. Post 1999, the crowds at the USA women’s national team felt more like a pop concert than the sports crowds I was used to whilst growing up. Most noticeable was the constant screaming. If I develop tinnitus then l will be making a compensation claim to the publishers of She Kicks magazine.
In the past, showpiece matches like the Women’s FA Cup final have been filled up with people there for a day out and not necessarily your hardcore football fans. Don’t get me started on that God-awful period of time when plastic horns were all the rage. In fact rage is the only way to describe my feelings about that time. I am not against women’s football being super accessible to kids, I am all for bringing kids along and women’s football being their first live game experience. I recently took my daughter to her first England match at Wembley. But if the majority of the crowd are new it does lack something in terms of its atmosphere.
To me, the key to a good atmosphere is the tension. There needs to be something at stake, not just for the players on the pitch but for the people in the stands. You need to care about the score, you need to care about the outcome. It helps if you care about the players or know who they are because then you are even happier when they do well. That was what was missing before, there were people there, but there were not fans. That’s what is so great about this modern era of women’s football – there are lots of fans of the game.
And how do I know things are different? The roar of the fans when Erin Cuthbert scored. It was a loud and passionate roar that made you feel as if you were missing out by not being in the stand when it happened. You could hear it through the speakers and see it on the faces of the fans on the TV. It meant something to her and it meant something to them.
Did you enjoy this? Do you agree? Do you also share the view that fans are vital to the ongoing growth of the women’s game? Your voice and views are important. You should maybe think about joining with other fans to make sure your opinions are taken on board. You should join the Football Supporters Association (it’s FREE!). More info HERE: https://thefsa.org.uk/