Women’s Super League and Euro 22 offer great chance to expand support for game – Sue Smith

I hope plenty of people tune into Sky Sports tomorrow for what could be an exciting final week in the Women’s Super League (WSL), and ticket sales for this summer’s Women’s European Championships, which includes games in Sheffield and Rotherham, have been good.

There is plenty of appetite for women’s big football events.

On Sunday, St James’ Park drew the biggest crowd for a domestic match this season – more than 22,000 – for Newcastle United versus Alnwick Town in a fourth-tier National League Division One North match.

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Tickets for July’s Euros final sold out within an hour of going on general sale and there are no seats left for England’s games against Northern Ireland or Norway. In Spain, 91,553 saw Barcelona play Real Madrid in the Champions League, and more were at the semi-final against Wolfsburg.

Manchester United's Alessia Russo (centre) celebrates with team-mates after scoring their side's third goal agaisnt Everton at Old Trafford Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

I hope that enthusiasm can be translated into WSL attendances.

One thing that needs looking at is the number of times a club’s men and women play at the same time. Scheduling has been more difficult in recent seasons because of Covid-19 postponements but it is a long-running problem.

Manchester City women played when their men were in Madrid for Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final. Three recent WSL games have clashed and the FA Cup final will too.

This season’s television coverage has given women’s football far more exposure and it does seem good at advertising one-off “event” games. Championship Sheffield United had a record crowd at home to Liverpool.

GROWING SUPPORT: Championship side Sheffield United had a record crowd at home to Liverpool earlier this season. Picture: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

But when I met some Newcastle fans recently who were excited about the St James’ game and asked if they went to matches at Druid Park, they did not know when they were on.

If England have a good summer, excitement will grow. We see it all the time, not just in Britain. At the last Euros I was blown away by the increasing numbers dressed in orange going to each game as Holland won their home tournament.

I really hope to see WSL gates up next season on the back of the Euros. The future depends on it.

Our league also attracts many of the world’s best players and they rightly expect top wages.

LEADING LADIES: Chelsea could clinch the Women's Super League title this weekend. Picture: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

I constantly get told top women’s players should earn the same as men but they just cannot.

The USA went to court to win equal pay to the men but they are probably the more popular team and bring in huge sponsorship.

WSL gates are probably not even at League Two men’s level so we must be more sustainable.

I know from my time as a Leeds United player when the men hit financial trouble, the women’s team is one of the first things cut back or in that case, scrapped.

Coventry City nearly went out of business this season and Birmingham City were relegated when their funding gave them no chance of competing.

I worry what might happen to Everton if the men are relegated from the Premier League. I do not expect a repeat of Leeds – there would be uproar now – but there could be big cutbacks.

Tomorrow a win will give Chelsea the title but a slip-up to Champions League-chasers Manchester United could let Arsenal in. It should be well worth a watch but if you enjoy it, it would really mean a lot if you supported your local women’s team from the stands next season.