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Opinion

Like everything else under Mike Ashley, Newcastle United left behind when it comes to women’s football

3 weeks ago
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Women’s football made the headlines again this weekend.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosting a North London derby, Arsenal winning in front of a crowd of 38,262.

Meanwhile Everton beat Liverpool at Anfield, 23,500 watching on.

A new record was also set when Chelsea beat Man Utd, the game was sold out with 4,790 in attendance at Chelsea women’s team’s usual Kingsmeadow home stadium, as opposed to being played at Stamford Bridge or any other men’s first team stadium.

The women’s World Cup in France earlier this year saw massive crowds and coverage given to the tournament, producing what would at one time have been seen as staggering TV audiences.

Earlier this month a massive 77,768 watched the England women’s team take on Germany at Wembley.

It isn’t a case of it being women’s football competing with the men’s game, simply a case of it (women’s football) becoming more popular.

Women (you know, your sisters, daughters, mothers) now having a chance of making a career out of playing football, how good is that?

Even if you have zero interest in watching or reading about women’s football, you can’t deny that it is a forward step for more people to get a chance to play football, whether it be professionally or just for fun and/or go along and watch it.

Sadly, this is yet another chance passing Newcastle United by, under Mike Ashley.

There is a Newcastle United Women’s team who are allowed to use the club’s name and are now associated with the club’s stand alone charity, the Newcastle United Foundation. However, the support given to them is minimal compared to what is happening at other Premier League clubs.

This is no criticism of those directly involved, who are all doing their level best, only Mike Ashley is the one to blame.

Like so many other areas of Newcastle United, Ashley isn’t interested in long-term, or doing what is right for the community overall. The club regularly use the Newcastle United Foundation as a shield when accused of letting the community down but money/benefit/help from Mike Ashley and NUFC are minimal for the Foundation, compared to many of the Foundations at rival clubs.

Yes there might not be money to be made directly from women’s football at this moment in time for Premier League clubs.

However, other clubs look long-term and can see that it is a growing sport and one that is a really good fit as part of the overall health of the football club going forward. An investment now could/would see a financial return directly and/or indirectly in the future.

These ‘one-off’ games at PL stadiums are increasing in number and whilst they may not be the norm at the moment, who knows in the future.

It is also surely food for thought that the 38,262 who turned up to watch the women’s North London derby at the weekend, is roughly the same number who turned up to see Steve Bruce’s team draw with Brighton earlier this season. The official number of tickets sold was higher but clearly less than 40,000 inside SJP, maybe even less than 38,262?

Yes money and support would have to be given to get things going in terms of boosting the Newcastle United Women’s team but it is minimal compared to the overall cash swilling around NUFC.

An extraordinary proportion of this year’s England World Cup team/squad were players from the north east, if Newcastle United had a properly supported women’s team then the sky would be the limit, rather than them having to move away from the region due to a lack of ambition locally…

Not exactly a new problem for north east football!

All of the ambitious clubs in the Premier League are doing their best to widen the appeal of their football clubs longer-term, whether it is increasing the capacity of their stadiums, developing state of the art training complexes, investing heavily in their academies, or yes, even investing in a successful women’s team set-up of the future.

At the moment Newcastle United Women’s team are playing in the fourth tier of the English league set-up.

They need and deserve the help to be one day fighting it out at the top, playing on occasion at St James Park in front of tens of thousand of people.

BBC Sport report:

More than 70,000 people turned out to celebrate women’s football weekend on what was described as an “absolutely momentous” day for the Women’s Super League.

Two WSL attendance records were broken on Sunday, as four out of six fixtures were played at men’s Premier League and Championship grounds.

Arsenal’s victory over north London rivals Tottenham was watched by a record 38,262 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, while Anfield, hosting its first-ever WSL match, welcomed 23,500 supporters for the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton.

Chelsea’s home game against Manchester United at Kingsmeadow also saw a record crowd – the 4,790 sell-out was a new best for a WSL game held at a non-Premier League stadium.

“This is the progression of women’s football,” Tottenham co-head coach Karen Hills told BBC Sport. “If I’m honest, it shouldn’t be a moment – it should be something that hopefully becomes the norm.

“It’s absolutely momentous for those women. We want to see women playing in these big stadiums and we want to see these big crowds coming.

“Hopefully it won’t just be an occasion – it will be the norm for women’s football.”

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