Manchester United recorded a 55% rise in season ticket sales for its women’s team before this season had even started, with top club officials optimistic about the future.
After narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification in each of the last two seasons, United are determined to be the first new club to break up the WSL’s established top three since Birmingham finished above Arsenal way back in 2014.
To try and achieve their goal, United backed manager Marc Skinner in the summer transfer market with seven new signings. The club has also benefitted from the general spike in interest in women’s football off the back of a successful Euro 2022 that saw England crowned champions on home soil.
Last weekend’s first home game of the 2022/23 WSL season saw a record home crowd for a fixture held at Leigh Sports Village in excess of 5,000. On the pitch, United blew Reading away, comfortably winning 4-0 and giving new fans a reason to come back again and again.
Even before the new campaign began, United had considerably bettered their season ticket sales from 2021/22, which was the first campaign to see fans return after the Covid-19 pandemic. Online, women’s team season tickets have been listed as ‘sold out’ for a number of weeks.
“We are delighted to see stronger ticket demand for our women’s matches as the thrilling win by England’s national team in the European Championship this year featured four current Manchester United players and has boosted interest at club level across the WSL,” United chief operating officer Collette Roche told investors on the club’s latest quarterly conference call.
“This year, season ticket demand for our women’s matches has increased 55% versus the previous year and before a ball had been kicked, we’d sold more tickets than we did across the entire season last year. We are very optimistic for continued momentum of the women’s game.”
Football director John Murtough, who played a major role in the reformation of a United women’s first-team squad in 2018, added, “We are pleased with the seven additions made to our women’s squad and look forward to seeing the team continue to develop under Marc Skinner after last season’s solid fourth-place finish in the Women’s Super League.”
New chief executive Richard Arnold also addressed the women’s team, reiterating the “…aim of reinforcing our position among the leading clubs in the Women’s Super League.”
A number of United’s biggest attendances over the last four years were recorded during the club’s maiden season as a second tier club in 2018/19 – the crowd record broken last weekend had actually been set in the very first competitive home game back in August 2018.
That level of interest mostly carried over into the 2019/20 campaign upon promotion to the WSL and off the back of the 2019 World Cup, but the cancellation of the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a year behind closed doors served to kill the momentum.
Attendance figures still hadn’t recovered to the same pre-pandemic levels by the end of last season, but Euro 2022 has served to positively reintroduce women’s football to more people and is already proving a catalyst moment for renewed growth at club level.