The 43,264 in attendance at the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final on Saturday confirmed what Kelly Simmons has known for a while – that the women’s game is in rude health.
Second-half goals by Keira Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Lauren Hemp gave Manchester City a 3-0 victory over West Ham United at Wembley, handing the Citizens a second Cup triumph inside three years.
It is the fifth straight year the Final has been staged at the national stadium and the second year in a row that the crowd has surpassed the 40,000 mark.
- SSE Women's FA Cup Final
- Saturday 4 May
- Wembley Stadium
“The FA Cup Final is always a key indicator of how well the women’s game is doing – and the numbers we’ve seen at Wembley suggests we’re in a very good place.
“It’s our showpiece event and we want to attract a big crowd every year. We obviously want to keep growing the numbers because, ultimately, we’ve got the ambition of selling out Wembley one day.
“Things are definitely moving in the right direction, with the number of fans coming to games increasing all the time.
“We’re seeing it at our WSL matches and our England games, too.”
The biggest match of the domestic season, the Women’s FA Cup Final has long attracted, and continues to attract, general fans of the women’s game, with tickets on sale months before the event.
But what pleased Simmons about this year’s Final was the number of Man City and West Ham supporters in the crowd.
“The partisan fans certainly added to the atmosphere,” she said. “It was great seeing the claret and blue of West Ham and the sky blue of City. It’s what the Cup Final’s all about.
“That fandom certainly helps the game and it’s fantastic to see.
“City have obviously been to Wembley before and their fans always get behind their side, but it was great that West Ham sold a lot of tickets and we hope this game and this event encourages those fans to watch West Ham in the Super League next season.
“We know people turn up to our big events, we’ve seen that with our England games, but to make the FA WSL more sustainable we need more passionate fans of each who will follow a club week in, week out.”
The FA’s Gameplan for Growth, an ambitious four-year plan to grow the women’s game in every capacity, is at its halfway stage, and one of its key pillars is boosting the number of players and fans.
And while we’re well on track, Simmons believes days like the Women’s FA Cup Final can only help inspire the next generation.
She said: “What I love about the FA Cup Final, and I notice this every year, is that it attracts a number of youngsters.
“It’s fantastic for these young fans to see such skilful and athletic female role models performing on such a big stage.
“It’s important for girls to see that but it’s equally as powerful for young boys to see it, too.”
Simmons added: “The FA Cup has got fabulous history and tradition, and the fact the Final is now played at Wembley simply adds to that.
“Every player wants to play at Wembley Stadium. To walk up the Wembley steps and lift the Cup is what we’ve all dreamt of since we were little kids.
“Ever since it’s moved to Wembley, everything about this Final has been massively elevated and that’s great to see.”