The attendance record for the Women’s Super League is set to be shattered on Saturday with more than 51,000 tickets sold for the Arsenal derby against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium.
This summer, Arsenal central defender and England captain Leah Williamson appealed to fans who followed the team The triumphant euro A trip to attend the matches of the WSL League. “We got everyone together,” she shouted into the camera. “We have people at the games. We want them to come to the Women’s Premier League – the legacy of this team will be the start of the journey.”
The message was heard loud and clear in Arsenal. “We followed Leah’s lead,” says Juliette Slott, chief commercial officer, who was at Wembley when Williamson lifted the trophy and teammate Beth Meade took home the Golden Ball and Golden Boot. “We thought: ‘Well, come on, we too, as a club, should tell people we want them to come in.'”
Arsenal are one of four WSL clubs playing in their club’s home stadium this weekend, which means the combined attendance for a round of matches is about to be shattered. Liverpool play Everton at Anfield, Brighton play Reading at the AMEX and Leicester face Aston Villa at King Power where they host all their matches.
Arsenal were one of the last Women’s Football League teams to host a league match at their main stadium, but they have committed to playing six matches there this season and have given the men’s team season ticket holders a chance to outdo them. Slot says the decision to move matches was made before they began last December and that it reflects Arsenal’s women’s football strategy to invest in players, facilities and marketing.
“Part of the reason I’m at Arsenal is because I’m used to selling tickets,” she says. “Premier League clubs traditionally don’t have to work hard to sell tickets. I come from racing, where you have to work hard to get every ticket, even at Royal Ascot. So one of the things I said is that we need a different mindset, a different mindset and the ability to sell Tickets for a new audience.
“We invested in those other areas and the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle was to come in and go: ‘This is how we can market it. “Because in the end we want it to be sustainable. We want our women’s teams to make a profit and fill the stadiums.”
However, how the club reached over 50,000 ticket sales, soaring impressively to approach the 1921 record for the 53,000 women’s domestic game with Tickets are still on sale And follow-up available?
Last season, at the 60,260-capacity Emirates Stadium, 8705 fans watched Arsenal’s match against Chelsea, 13,438 attended the Champions League match against Barcelona, and 5018 fans attended the Champions League quarter-final against Wolfsburg. The north London derby was due to take place there on March 26 but was postponed after the outbreak of Covid in Tottenham. Arsenal were on their way to rally more than 15,000 people.
Much of the increased momentum can be attributed to the Euro win, but preparing for that momentum has already allowed Arsenal to capitalize on. “We thought the England team would do well, and it was fantastic to win, but we really had a plan in place,” says Sloot. “We prepare our budget in January-February every year. So we planned to have this game in the Emirates, put a certain amount of marketing spend behind it and put a team together.”
Last season, Slot had one person working full-time and another part-time for the Tottenham game in the Emirates. Now, a women’s steering group covers every area and pulls in the communications and operations teams.
“You don’t just have to say, ‘If you build it, they will come,'” says Sloot. “You have to keep telling people about this opportunity. The main message this week is that tickets are available even at parties, which you would never assume for a men’s match. So it’s about educating the public.”
Only about 100 tickets were awarded through the club’s community program. “You find that a lot of people take tickets and then don’t show up,” Slott says. “So, I am fully aware that you need to give value to the experience.”
Clubs learn from each other and share successes. The call to Barcelona after successive record crowds at the Camp Nou is ‘on the agenda’ for Slot. She acknowledges that there is “a lot of work to be done” and says, “We are talking and working with all the other clubs that are really focused on women’s football and trying to develop the game in a sustainable way together.”