Arsenal will break the Women’s Super League attendance record when they host rivals Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday – and Gunners boss Jonas Eidevall is determined to make sure they make the most of the opportunity to impress.
The Gunners have now sold 51,000 tickets for the North London derby, moving 2,900 between Wednesday and Thursday. The previous WSL record, 38,262, was set in 2019 when the same teams met at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Eidevall believes that the fact that fans are willing to invest in such unprecedented numbers is a vital benchmark for the future of the league and he is keen that it is not unique.
“Remember, it’s 50,000 tickets sold,” he said. “These are not gifts, they are not sold at a reduced price. It’s tickets sold. And I think that’s really, really special, because it means doing this the way the club did, it’s sustainable.
“It shows that the interest is there for real. It’s the investment that we as a team, as a club have made but also past generations or past teams have made to put us on this stage here, it’s phenomenal.
“We feel, of course, that we want to go out and we want to make the most of it tomorrow, so that it can happen more frequently.
“I think it’s so important for the growth of the game that we don’t have these opportunities like once. If you promote the game in a sustainable way, the chances that you can repeat it again increase.
“It will not be a lasting solution to give away tickets for a match. Let’s be honest, football clubs need income.
The boom in ticket sales following England’s triumph at Euro 2022 has been keenly felt in the domestic game, with a number of marquee games at Premier League venues scheduled in both the WSL and the championship.
But some say low ticket prices and freebies can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they make matches more accessible and attract new audiences, but on the other hand, some say, they lead to vast discrepancies between box office numbers and actual attendance.
Last season’s runners-up Arsenal are favorites to win Saturday’s derby, with England stars such as Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Lotte Wubben-Moy from the historic Lionesses summer.
They go into the clash after a resounding 4-0 victory over Brighton, but Eidevall was quick to stamp out any seed of complacency.
“It starts at zero,” he said. “If you think you have the right to win, or if you are expected to win, it will stress you out right away. That’s not the way to approach a football game.
“You have to respect the opponent. You have to respect the game.”
Rehanne Skinner’s Spurs are also looking to pick up three more points after beating Leicester 2-1 on the opening weekend.
They will be without Rosella Ayane, who has been out for around four weeks after fracturing her foot against Leicester. It is, Skinner admitted, “another blow” for a team with “not necessarily a complete lack of availability, but certainly not 90 minutes worthy of some players”.
Still, Skinner was confident her team would be able to rise to the occasion.
“I just think it’s something the players will appreciate,” she added.
“It’s an opportunity to play in front of a volume of fans that some of them wouldn’t have been able to before unless they were in major finals, FA Cups.
“Certainly the excitement on the pitch today in our last training session was evident. It will pose challenges in terms of communication and things like that because it’s hard to hear but really it’s the path we all want to take and it’s something that we all have to start getting used to and want to do more often. I only see positive things in that.”