Lionesses aim to build on World Cup fanfare

Super League resumes with ticket sales having increased four-fold

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The Independent Online

After meeting the Duke of Cambridge, David Cameron and David Beckham in a hectic day of glad-handing and selfies England’s women footballers return to work tomorrow hoping the ‘lionesses effect’ rubs off on the domestic game.

Having won bronze in the Women’s World Cup, an achievement that lifted England to a highest ever fifth in the world in the Fifa rankings, Mark Sampson’s team were feted at Kensington Palace, 10 Downing Street and Wimbledon centre court on Thursday.

On Sunday, though, they will be at the less exalted environs of Staines FC, Borehamwood FC, Manchester City’s Academy Stadium and the Hetton Centre at Hetton-le Hole. And they hope they will be joined by thousands of new fans of the women’s game.

This did not happen three years ago, when the GB players who beat Brazil in front of 70,000-plus at Wembley in the Olympics found themselves watched by crowds below 500 in the WSL. This time, however, there is a belief that it will be different. Advance online sales are four times higher than usual at all venues and while 2,000-plus gates sound modest that would be a telling rise at most clubs.  


The Independent columnist Alex Scott, who will play for Arsenal in their televised home match against Liverpool on Sunday evening, said: “It has been amazing since we got back from Canada. We knew there had been a lot of attention, but you don’t appreciate the extent when you are out there. Now we have people coming up to us in the street and saying how proud they are of us.

“After the Olympics there was a buzz and I thought we would push on, but I can remember going to Everton for our next game and there was only a few hundred there. But we’ve already sold five times as many advance tickets as usual for Sunday’s match and I hope that won’t be a one-off and we can build something. We know from playing our Champions League semi-final at Borehamwood that if you get 2,000 people there it is a great atmosphere and I hope people will enjoy that and come back.”

When the men return from a World Cup, it is to go on holiday, but WSL is a summer league. “It always hard to get motivated for a league game in a small ground after playing World Cup in a big stadium,” said Scott, “but it feels different this time, there is a real buzz. It should be a big second half of the season. All clubs are investing and I think it will go to the wire again.”

In a further indication of a maturing sport the UK transfer record has been smashed this week with England’s Fran Kirby moving from second division Reading to Chelsea for an estimated £70,000 fee. Chelsea are two points ahead of Arsenal with Notts County one point further behind and eight of the 14 match season still to be played.

Another England player, goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain, joined Notts County on loan from Arsenal as cover for Carly Telford who has a shoulder injury. Chamberlain in contention to play in the FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley on 1 August.

Among other moves Arsenal signed Spanish midfielder Marta Corredera from Barcelona, Liverpool acquired New Zealander Rosie White and Manchester City and Sunderland brought in an American and a Norwegian respectively. With Bristol Academy signing players from Portugal, the Netherlands and Equatorial Guinea WSL is becoming as multi-national as the men’s Premier League.

Arsenal (Borehamwood FC) A Scott, Stoney, Nobbs. Birmingham City (Solihull Moors FC) Moore, Carney, Potter. Chelsea (Staines FC) Rafferty, Chapman, Aluko, Kirby. Liverpool (Widnes RLFC) Williams. Manchester City (Academy Stadium, Man City FC) Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton, J Scott, Duggan. Notts County (Meadow Lane, Notts Co FC) Telford, Chamberlain, Greenwood, Bassett, White.

Tomorrow’s WSL 1 fixtures 2pm ko unless stated

Chelsea v Bristol

Man City v Birmingham

Sunderland v Notts County

Arsenal v Liverpool 6pm; live on BT Sport 1