Outside the Box: Women's game unable to capitalise on London 2012

 

ESPN are to televise tomorrow's Women's Super League match between Birmingham City and Bristol Academy at Stratford Town, but the cameras seem unlikely to be homing in on what the Football Association are optimistically predicting as a "packed bank holiday crowd". Huge attendances for women's football at the Olympics – there were 70,000 at Great Britain's game with Brazil and 80,000 for the final between the United States and Japan – may have increased the profile of the women's game, but persuading many of those spectators to watch club matches is a serious challenge. When the League resumed earlier this month after pausing for the London Games, 289 turned up to see Doncaster play Everton. For Birmingham's game against Lincoln, in which Olympian Karen Carney scored with a spectacular free-kick, the attendance of 362 was actually down on their previous match in July. At least Everton were able to claim an increase, when 618 turned out for a top-of-the-table match against Arsenal featuring nine of the Olympic squad. The FA admitted average attendances of under 400 last week were "disappointing". A spokesman added: "We want to encourage everyone to keep supporting women's football by coming to see a WSL match for a different kind of fan experience. It is important not to lose the momentum that we gained from the summer."

Booked, but who is he?

The publication on Thursday of a book called I Am The Secret Footballer will increase the fevered speculation about the identity of the player. It is apparently known to three people, two of them executives of the Guardian newspaper, where the column The Secret Footballer has appeared for the past 19 months. The guessing game has a whole website devoted to it (whoisthesecretfootballer.co.uk). In fact, any further clues – like quoting Proust – may make it easier to rule players out than in. Evidence suggests that the author was brought up on a council estate in a dull town, reading his dad's literary classics; was a late starter; has played for more than one Premier League team, newly promoted as well as relegated; has been a captain; set a club-record transfer fee; is white, anti-authoritarian and has suffered from depression. Leading the website's poll is Bolton's Kevin Davies, a bright man who ticks several boxes but whose emergence as a 16-year-old with Chesterfield and later friendship with team-mate Gary Speed do not tally with the book.

Time to box clever, Curtis

Sheffield FC, officially the world's oldest club despite Cambridge University's protestations, have been forced to censure their new manager, Curtis Woodhouse for publicly taking sides between the city's two Championship teams. The combative Woodhouse, who fought as a light-welterweight after briefly retiring from football, has always been a Blade rather than an Owl, having captained Sheffield United, his first club, at 19. His chairman, secretary and two directors are all Wednesdayites and they have now issued a statement that reads: "We have a healthy relationship with both professional neighbours and enjoy support of fans from both clubs. [We] therefore should act as a 'neutral' conduit between the blue and white, and red and white sides of the city."

Walking a fine line

Which team scored a winning goal in the 19th minute of added time? Not Manchester United, but Grantham, whose Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division game away to Stafford Rangers on Tuesday was extended by 19 minutes after a long hold-up when Grantham objected to a spectator (a qualified referee) stepping in to run the line after the referee limped off.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue

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