Manchester United were given an allocated away section for their trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal in November; most WSL fixtures do not feature segregated crowds; "I just think we're at a stage where there's a luxury of being able to do both," says Izzy Christiansen
Sunday 4 December 2022 08:38, UK
The rise of the Barclays WSL in recent years has seen both interest and crowds grow, but there is no stipulation from the league that crowds need to be segregated to keep home and away fans apart, as is the case in the men's game.
Most recently, however, Manchester United's trip to Arsenal was played at the Emirates, where the travelling fans were housed in their own section of the stadium, which welcomed over 40,000 on November 19.
On the first episode of Three Players and a Podcast, Rachel Yankey, Jen Beattie and Izzy Christiansen debate the idea of establishing away sections in women's football.
"I know it was was a terrible moment for Arsenal but to have that moment for United to be able to go and celebrate with their fans in a big win, I thought it was brilliant," said Gunners defender Beattie.
"The atmosphere was so visible. Even recently in the Champions League when we played Juventus, again we had our away fan section and there weren't loads of fans but enough to be causing songs to go back and forth.
"I appreciate the fans because they travel here, there and everywhere, especially across England. So I think it is nice for them to be able to come together as part of a community, as an away fan, and then for us to be able to celebrate with them, I think it's a really nice thing."
Yankey - who earned 129 caps for England throughout a glittering England career - agreed.
"When you're playing, you always want to know where your support is," she said. "I can't remember what year it was, but we played against France to get through to a World Cup and it was just all 'Allez les Bleus' and then you heard a little tiny group of England fans.
"But that grabbed you and you realised: 'You know what, we've got to play for them'. I think it was Fara [Williams] that scored and all of us ran over to the end our fans were in - they were way up in the gods, but it was special. I think it can give players a lift, an extra boost.
"On the flipside of that, I loved going to the final of the Euros where it just felt like a bit of a carnival atmosphere. Everyone was just friendly, wanted to be there to enjoy the game and support."
Everton's Christiansen added: "I walked out with the girls at Anfield earlier in the season and we were told 8,000 tickets had been sold, but there was 28,000 people in there. There was a massive surge of people filling up the stadium when we were warming up and I was like 'God, this is incredible'. And 25,000 were Liverpool fans, 3,000 Everton fans.
"I am one of those players that thrives off any noise. I remember winning a free kick for us. They had a corner and we counter-attacked them; I did a bit of gamesmanship and put my body in the way of the ball, took a free kick further up the pitch and then let our team settle after defending a corner and all their fans were booing - and I loved it. I absolutely loved it.
"I think we're a stage in women's football where let's just enjoy it how it is. If away sections are allocated, embrace it, do it.
"I just think we're at a stage where I think there's a luxury of being able to do both."