Women's football has proved able to keep the ball rolling off the back of a successful World Cup, with WSL attendances on the competition's opening weekend hitting new, unprecedented heights. A derby-filled weekend helped, with the first women's Manchester Derby being hosted at the Etihad, and an all-London clash between Chelsea and Spurs taking place at Stamford Bridge, but nonetheless figures were astounding.
The latter of those two fixtures had obvious appeal in that it was a free event - fans could just rock up to the Bridge and be entertained for free, needing nothing more than a small fortune for a half-time pie. However up in the North-West, City were able to earn back some of their outlay from hosting their match at the club's showpiece venue by charging £7 for an adult ticket. With 37,000 fans coming through the turnstiles, that's a sizeable return on investment.
On the other hand, 15,000 supporters laid claim to Chelsea's free tickets and simply failed to show up, leaving what was meant to be a sold-out Stamford Bridge scarcely populated in the upper tiers. Nevertheless, both games were incredible spectacles - we've never witnessed an atmosphere quite like it in domestic women's football in the UK, and for it to happen on the opening weekend of the new season is hugely encouraging.
What clubs are now tasked with is sustaining and building on that interest. Although City obviously aren't going to be welcoming their neighbours every weekend, there is clearly an appetite there and one that should be enough to consistently pack out the women's 9,000-seater stadium that lies just across the way from the Etihad - doing that, even at £5 a pop, will provide a significant financial boost to the women's game.
25,000 took up the offer of free tickets to Chelsea's game, but I guarantee that most of those would've happily stumped up a few pounds to enjoy the same spectacle. Clubs throughout the WSL should take note of City's ability to bring paying fans through the gate - even asking fans to part with the smallest amount of change will kickstart investment in the women's game, and that'll set us well on the way to the fully professional infrastructure that the game is crying out for.
Saturday's record at the Manchester derby saw the previous best attendance smashed, beating the 5,265 who watched Arsenal clinch the WSL title at Brighton's Amex Stadium in April. In total the opening weekend drew crowds of 62,931, while last season's entire 110 game campaign drew a total attendance of around 92,000. The 55,000 that were at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge inflated the figure, with Everton's win against Birmingham City at Solihull Moors watched by 873.