Could a three week winter break be stunting the growth of the WSL?
You can’t seem to get through a press conference over Christmas these days without hearing a manager in the Premier League grumble about the number of fixtures over the festive season. Indeed, time and time again the conversation will always come back to the congested fixture list and how much the players and in some instances, the managers are also suffering.
Manager of Liverpool’s men side, Jurgen Klopp, has gone as far as to say that it is hurting the national team not having a winter break. Klopp is especially vocal on this issue and can come across quite emotional from time to time but he isn’t alone in with many other managers sharing his point of view.
There is a reason that Klopp’s cries continue to fall on deaf ears though and that’s because the month of December has historically, always played a pivotal role in the Premier League. With this being the case, is the women’s game missing a trick by shutting up shop over Christmas?
— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) January 12, 2020
‘Tis the season to attract a new audience
In the footballing world, Christmas is synonymous with the games coming thick and fast. For a fan, there isn’t anything better as you spend your days in a haze of relaxation thanks to a constant supply of food and drink. To top this all off, you have a few days of leave to enjoy the fixtures with your family.
Honestly speaking, what could be better for a football fan? It truly is the most wonderful time of the year and provides so much excitement as the teams take to the field on freezing nights with so much at stake, but for the supporters around the country, this is all played out to a backdrop of crackling fires. The nights have drawn in and the curtains are shut, the world has gone into hibernation but the Premier League charges on as millions get to watch the greatest story unfold.
Football over Christmas is so deeply ingrained in the United Kingdom that it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, so Klopp and any other unhappy managers will have to do with the scrap that the FA has thrown them with a February break.
The German should look to lighten up a bit, his team is, after all, 1/50 with betting site Betway to win the Premier League as of the 13th January and put to bed 30 years of suffering at Anfield. It seems a bit trivial to sweat the minor issues as this is a man on the brink of making history, or at the very least, never having to buy himself a drink in Liverpool ever again. But back to the football and the merits of playing over Christmas.
This does all make you wonder, in a day and age where women’s football is in a fight to attract a new audience, could the popular and steadily growing Barclays Women’s Super League actually benefit from keeping their doors open over the festive season? The numbers suggest it just might.
Give the people what they want
Every year women’s football has a spike in popularity and this is always aided by the help of a World Cup. It was back in 2011 that the organizers were talking about the unprecedented TV coverage of the World Cup and how much it was likely to benefit the growth of the game.
Roll on four years to 2015 and a whopping 33 million people alone watched the group stage event.
So it’s no surprise to see that the 2019 World Cup broke any previous viewership record held with the final reaching an eye-watering 263 million unique viewers. The secret’s out; women’s football is really good and thoroughly entertaining, so why does the WSL turn the lights off during Christmas when everyone is on holiday ready to watch it? The success of last year’s World Cup probably took everyone by surprise, just given the sheer size of the audience. 2019 really did symbol a turning point for women’s football with more sponsors stepping forward and the world finally taking notice of what an excellent spectacle women’s football truly is. The SheBelieves Cup has certainly played a large part in helping grow that audience and the upcoming fifth edition is set to see the US, England, Japan and Spain compete against each other.
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) July 7, 2019
With a captive audience, though, comes the responsibility to grow the game which probably means that the Women’s Super League needs to reconsider shutting down over the most opportune time to watch football in the year. The crest of the wave needs to be ridden and the time is now.
The WSU Team bringing you news and updates from the world of women’s football.