In her exclusive column for GiveMeSport Women, England and Manchester City superstar Lucy Bronze discusses record attendances for women’s football and selling out Old Trafford for Euro 2022.
Playing in front of thousands of people is an incredible feeling. It’s great to know that people are there to support you, but I also kind of like it when they want to see you fail.
England recently played Northern Ireland in front of 15,000 of their fans, and I know the majority of the crowd didn’t want us to do well. I got nut-megged and the crowd was cheering, but that kind of thing pushes you as a player. Your pride’s on the line.
Of course, playing in front of a big crowd is not the be-all and end-all. When we played North Macedonia, there was a British Army base nearby and around 30 of them turned up. They alone created an amazing atmosphere!
But it’s the absolute best when there are crowds cheering, singing songs, chanting and booing. The support around the ground makes such a difference to the team. It would be great if we could have this more in women’s football, and really start to build a proper home advantage.
Record attendance at Nou Camp
There’s not many better stadiums in the world than Nou Camp. That’s why it was so cool to see a world-record crowd attend Barcelona’s match with Real Madrid in the Women’s Champions League.
We’ve seen other stadiums sell out for women’s football, but not that quickly, and not to that extent. It’s even better that they’ve managed to sell out again for Barcelona’s clash against Wolfsburg tonight.
Obviously, the match against Real Madrid was a highly-anticipated encounter. It was the Champions League and it was a fixture which already has an intense rivalry.
But it showed that women’s football is evolving. There is a fan base, and if things are done in the right places at the right time, these are the kinds of things that can come from it – selling out Nou Camp in the Champions League, back to back.
I think any player, male or female, would have loved to be involved in that match. It’s nice that it’s a dream that can now be made a reality for anybody that plays football.
Achieving similar attendances in England
Ultimately, there’s lot of reasons why people want to watch Barcelona. There was a real variety of fans at the match against Real Madrid.
There were people who had supported Barcelona all their lives, people who were new to the game, people who just love the way they play, people who love specific players on the Barcelona team, and people who wanted to see a Champions League-winning side.
It was fantastic that the match was marketed at everyone. We want women’s football to be for everybody. Everyone should be encouraged to come and watch, whether that’s a middle-aged man, a young boy or a teenage girl.
I also think Barcelona have really cracked the one-club mentality. At the moment, the men’s team is not doing as well as it should be, but the women’s team is now exceptional. So, the club’s still doing really well overall. That’s something the fans are obviously proud of and want to support.
It’s something I remember well when I played for Lyon. Sometimes the men’s team weren’t doing well, but it gave a great boost to the club and fans that the women were winning the Champions League.
Old Trafford sell-out
It’s brilliant to see all of England’s group matches for Euro 2022 sell-out, particularly the opener at Old Trafford.
It’s something we were aiming for. It’s easy for us to sit here and say women’s football is growing, but we have to be selling out stadiums to prove that.
Now, we can go into the tournament knowing we have a lot of support around us, and a fanbase spread right around the country!
As the home nation, we’re playing at arguably some of the bigger and better stadiums, but the chances are that we’re going to sell more tickets as hosts. So that does make sense.
I think there can still be a fantastic atmosphere at some of the smaller venues, though, such as the Academy Stadium. I know I’m biased, but it’s a state-of-the-art stadium and has a really good pitch.
I love playing there every week. When it’s full capacity, the atmosphere is magnificent.
I think the most important thing for Euro 2022 is selling tickets and ensuring the stadiums are full. That’s the most important thing for women’s football, really.
If we could say that we had a whole tournament with every single game sold out, that would be huge. It would set the standard for the future, showing that the stadiums do need to be bigger and better, because the demand is there.