Liverpool Women’s record Anfield night – but was there a missed opportunity? – Liverpool FC

Liverpool Women returned to Anfield after almost three years, playing in front of a record crowd in their derby loss, but there was a feeling they missed out on the opportunity to break the 30,000 figure.

“To come [watch]Because the product is fantastic on the field, players will be running through a brick wall for the badge.”

Those were the words of Liverpool manager Matt Beard at This Is Anfield on the eve of the new season, which sees the Reds back in their rightful place in the Women’s Super League.

The Merseyside derby, then, at Anfield.

Sunday night presented another opportunity to showcase women’s football, with a record attendance of 27,574 for the first women’s game on the pitch since 2019, which featured a crowd of 23,500.

The stadium was made up of mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, friends, families and the ever present who follow the women’s team across the country each week.

The pitch was buzzing with excitement, there was anticipation and anticipation with every Liverpool forward foray, a cacophony of sounds from all four corners of the pitch as the Reds flirted with finding the net.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 25, 2022: Megan Finnigan (2R) of Everton celebrates scoring the first goal with her teammates during the FA Women's Super League match between Liverpool FC Women and Everton FC Women, the Women's Merseyside Derby at Anfield.  (Photo by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

And yet, you sensed that there was still a missed opportunity beyond the 3-0 scoreline for Everton.

Ticket sales were halted two days before the game, with access prohibited due to the sales being coupled with online queues for men’s games and tedious check-boxes to complete the transaction.

And advertising to a wider audience was limited and the late start time of 6.45pm, thanks to Sky Sports, will no doubt have been off-putting for those with young children on a school night.

Not to mention that the previous evening’s legends match at Anfield will have forced fans to choose during a weekend off thanks to the international break.

Not to be overly critical, but there is a market to tap into, one that is ready to answer the call should the right steps be taken at every juncture.

It’s a good balance to learn to walk before you run, as noted by Chelsea manager Emma Hayes, who has been instrumental in growing the game, after a record crowd at Prenton Park witnessed the Reds win over the reigning champions last week.

β€œIt’s wonderful that there are 3,000 here, but I think we have to fill this stadium first. We all get incredibly ambitious sometimes, which is wonderful,” Hayes said.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday September 25, 2022: Jill Scott taking photos with fans during the FA Women's Super League match between Liverpool FC Women and Everton FC Women, the Women's Merseyside Derby, at Anfield.  (Photo by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

“But fill this place up and then we can talk about it, or at least fill it halfway every week, not one week, so we can talk about construction beyond our home stadiums.”

However, Sunday showed what is possible with the right investment, marketing and strategy, but more than 30,000 could be achieved after the waves made by Liverpool last season and England’s success at the European Championships.

Women’s football in England is embarking on an exciting new era and one day discussion of crowds of tens of thousands at league matches will be commonplace, but there are still a number of important steps to be taken.

Liverpool can be at the forefront if they wish, and their new training ground, promised for 2023, is long overdue and represents growth that is still needed.

The club have been criticized before for putting the women’s side on the backburner, but if they need more reasons to invest, they need only look at the faces that made up the record crowd on Sunday.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday September 25, 2022: Liverpool supporters during the FA Women's Super League match between Liverpool FC Women and Everton FC Women, the Women's Merseyside Derby, at Anfield.  (Photo by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

Many were experiencing an Anfield matchday for the first time, new heroes and dreams emerged and I know witnessing such a moment in my childhood would have been transformative.

There is a way and all the players and fans of the game deserve more moments like Sunday at Anfield, albeit with perhaps more goals for the women in red next time!

Liverpool could have made different decisions this time around, but it is slowly heading in the right direction, as is the WSL with over 89,000 fans watching the competition in stadiums across the country this weekend alone, as mentioned. previously, one day it will be a common thing.

We’re not quite there yet, but the sooner women’s games are handled as a fixture of the football calendar rather than a showpiece during breaks in men’s games, the better, and that extends to coverage and access.

As Beard told TIA: “The product is there, the players are getting fitter and stronger every year.”

So while it may not have been a winning performance for Liverpool Women in the derby, the match showed what is possible and what needs to change to continue to drive the women’s game forward on Merseyside and beyond.

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