Fans come through the gates in record numbers at men’s home stadiums

  • Cobblers record a 781% increase
  • Grecians smash 20-year club record
  • More than 4,400 at East Midlands Derby
  • 1,405 watch Wombles at Plough Lane

Women’s teams playing at the home ground of their male counterparts has been a subject of much debate.

Many, like Stu Barker of Since 71 fame, are strongly in favour of the move, as he recently argued in detail here.

While some supporters have raised concerns about whether the matchday experience is lessened because venues are “too big” and the atmosphere suffers as a result.

Indeed, those points are all worthy of discussion and debate, but there’s one thing that can’t be disputed: when the stage is set and the turnstiles open, fans have arrived en masse, delivering record-breaking crowds this season.

Simply put: when it comes to the appetite for watching women’s teams at men’s home stadiums, the numbers don’t lie. And those that continue to push the game towards a wider audience, deserve a lot of credit.

More eyes than ever were on these four clubs.

Four different teams from four different divisions have all broken attendance records this season. From long-standing club records to divisional records, they’ve all fallen in impressive fashion.

Northampton Town, of the East Midlands Regional Women’s Football League Premier Divison, the fifth tier of women’s football, were the first team to play at their men’s home ground, Sixfields Stadium, in late September.

The occasion was a resounding success as the Cobblers, who have attracted home crowds of 64 and 73 against Oughtilbridge and Chesterfield respectively this season, welcomed a bumper crowd of 604 to Sixfields against Rotherham United – a massive 781% increase on their average attendance. Seven hundred and eighty-one!

Describing the feeling of stepping in front of a big crowd and winning emphatically, Rachael St. John Mosse said: “there’s no words to describe it. It’s unbelievable. I think, the fans coming today, pushed us, and knowing that they were behind us made us push even more. We did it for them and for us.”

Photo: Pete Norton

Andy Cook and his Nottingham Forest side were next to take centre stage as they clashed with Derby County in the East Midlands Derby, a FAWNL Northern Premier Division record-breaking crowd of 4,443 spectators filling the stands at the City Ground that day.

An incredible number and, as illustrated below, one they likely won’t emulate at Eastwood, their current home stadium. In fact, not only does it tower over every other home crowd this season, it’s over 1,500 fans more than the Midlands club recorded during the entirety of the 2018/19 season. Which, by tier 3 standards, were way above average.

The City Ground effect

It was a similar story for Exeter City and AFC Wimbledon.

A record-breaking crowd of 1,380 was on hand at St James Park when The Grecians met rivals, Plymouth Argyle, in the Devon County Cup, smashing the previous record of 680. A record that had stood for more than 20 years until Abbie Britton and Aaron Wakley’s side took to pitch to beat Argyle in a dramatic penalty shootout.

While AFC Wimbledon began life at their new home, Plough Lane, in front of an impressive 1,405 fans. Demonstration of a one-club ethos and the promise of a bright future for the club in front of their adoring Wombles fans.

Reflecting on a landmark occasion for the club, lifelong fan and manager Kevin Foster said: “A proud day to be part of AFC Wimbledon ladies as they start their journey at Plough Lane. 1400 supporters and couldn’t have happened without all the help from the volunteers.”

Four cubs, all rewarded for their efforts and deserving of plaudits for pushing, not just their respective clubs, but the wider game forwards. Maximising the opportunities presented to them to bring new eyes to the sport and create some special memories in the process.

Memories like this: