FA looks at switching some WSL matches to Premier League stadia

A number of Women’s Super League matches could be played as double-headers alongside Premier League fixtures next season, according to one of the most senior figures in the English game.

The Women’s World Cup has seen a groundswell of interest in the women’s game with 11.7million viewers tuning in to watch Phil Neville’s England side lose to the United States in their semi-final last Tuesday night.

The aim is to build on that growth with the biggest WSL clashes of the 2019-20 season set to take place in stadiums usually reserved for respective male teams.

But according to Kelly Simmons, the Football Association director of the women’s professional game, fixtures could also take place on the same day as Premier League matches to tap into the fanbase.

“That will be tried as well,” she told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme when asked if ‘double-headers’ could be on the agenda.

“But even in the stand alone games in the men’s stadiums we have already seen when we have done that before a big uplift and a big crossover of fans, so we will see more of that this season.

“We have already announced the fixtures for the first game and you will see coming out of that there will be a series of games in men’s stadiums as part of trying to build an audience.

“We know that there is a massive potential audience of fans coming across from the men’s game and the men’s clubs across to their women’s team, we are seeing very much a one-club ethos.

The Etihad Stadium could be used for WSL matches, possibly including Manchester City's opener against local rivals United
The Etihad Stadium could be used for WSL matches, possibly including Manchester City’s opener against local rivals United (Martin Rickett/PA)

“There is a massive chance for the game to pull those across this season with the Women’s Super League and get more people coming to games.”

The full WSL fixture list is announced on Wednesday but the opening round of matches was confirmed last week.

Manchester City host newly-promoted rivals Manchester United, with the venue for that fixture yet to be announced with the potential for the Etihad Stadium to play host to the season-opening derby.

“The opening fixture is Man City v Manchester United and that will be on television and that will be announced (on Monday) where that is,” added Simmons.

“It is up to Manchester City to announce where they decide to put that game but there will be a series of fixtures in men’s stadiums and that is going to be fantastic for the women’s game.”

Simmons is keen for these new WSL proposals to bring supporters closer to women’s football on a more regular basis following the success of the Lionnesses this summer.

“We have just finished the first year of fully-professional women’s football with the Women’s Super League so our job now is to make sure we capitalise on the momentum from the Women’s World Cup and build attendances and build audiences,” she said.

“You will see over the next week a series of announcements around fixtures, around games in men’s stadiums.

“We have really focused on putting top women’s games when there is no men’s football, we have got a series of live games on television across the season and we are hoping fans will come across.

“One of the things the World Cup has done is make our players household names and now people can follow them back at their clubs which is really important for the game.

“The fact that the semi-final had the biggest TV audience of the year of anything shows there is a real interest and we have got to make sure we move that across to the Women’s Super League and people watch every week.”