The biggest attendances in women's football
Over 45,000 tickets have been sold for Manchester United Women v Manchester City in the Barclays Super League, at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The fixture will make history as the first-ever WSL Manchester derby hosted at the Theatre of Dreams and, given the number of tickets purchases, it looks set to take its place among the biggest women's football attendances ever.
Priced at £15 for adults and £7.50 for under-16s and over-65s, you can still get yours now.
In our programme for the fixture, which you can view online or purchase at Old Trafford on matchday, we took a look at the biggest attendances ever recorded in the women's game.
Read the feature below, as United push to join the illustrious list with Sunday's crowd...
MANCHESTER UNITED v ASTON VILLA | WSL, OLD TRAFFORD, 3 DEC 2022
As 2022 began, our record home gate had been in place since game no.1 at Leigh Sports Village – that sunny Saturday in late August 2018, when even a defeat to Reading couldn’t extinguish the optimism among the crowd of 4,835. That record was always going to be obliterated for our first Old Trafford fixture with fans, against Everton on Mother’s Day last March, with 20,241 fans attending the WSL fixture. West Ham’s second visit here (they’d previously lost in M16 behind closed doors, of course) would see an even larger figure of 27,919 come through the turnstiles – helped by it coinciding with the latest ‘Women’s Football Weekend’ to promote games nationwide – but it was our Old Trafford fixture in-between that saw the Reds breach the 30K mark. And those at the game were treated to our best performance yet at the Theatre of Dreams as Aston Villa came to town on a crisp December day: an emphatic 5-0 win as Zelem, Galton, Russo, Batlle and Williams (in the 90th minute, naturally) all scored to briefly take us back to the WSL summit.
WOMEN’S SUPER LEAGUE FIXTURE | RECORD: 54,115
ARSENAL v LIVERPOOL | EMIRATES STADIUM, 1 OCT 2023
The Gunners have been playing the odd game at the Emirates for well over a decade now, and there’s no doubt that the London club have impressively led the way in the WSL in more recent years. Indeed, Arsenal have now sold more than 40,000 tickets for a women’s match on five separate occasions in less than two seasons, including for our famous 3-2 win there. Come the start of the current season, another exciting summer on the international stage had only drummed up interest further, and the Emirates was pushed closer towards its capacity for the visit of Matt Beard’s Liverpool, who would leave with a shock 1-0 win. Beard had previously been Liverpool boss when they were the opponents at the Emirates in 2013 (a game the Merseysiders also won, this time by a 4-0 margin). The crowd that day, to see the best team in the country kick off their title defence at home? A meagre 2,017 within that humongous four-tiered bowl. Talk about progress.
CHELSEA v MANCHESTER UNITED | WOMEN’S FA CUP FINAL, WEMBLEY, 14 MAY 2023
Now we enter the realm of records that include games beyond our borders – the biggest attendance for a domestic women’s club fixture, anywhere on the planet. And Marc Skinner’s Reds are proudly part of this one, even if the result didn’t go our way at Wembley. Again the record was beaten with ease – the previous high was 60,739 (Barcelona v Atletico Madrid in 2019), with the Women’s FA Cup final selling out for the first time (the previous record, from 2022, saw 49,094 see Chelsea beat Man City). While the Reds were seeking a maiden major trophy in our first-ever cup final, Emma Hayes’ Blues were out to land part one of the Double, and a Sam Kerr strike on 68 minutes would see them to the Cup, despite the immense efforts of those in red. Such is the current trajectory of the women’s club game in England, it surely won’t be too long before this fixture sells out every year, regardless of the teams involved – a far cry from a decade ago, when Arsenal beat Bristol Academy in the final at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium (attendance: 4,988).
WOMEN’S FIXTURE AT OLD TRAFFORD | RECORD: 68,871
ENGLAND v AUSTRIA | WOMEN’S EURO 2022, 6 JUL 2022
The Lionesses’ Euros 2022 opener at Old Trafford sold out months before the match, with excited fans filling the East Stand forecourt hours ahead of the game, and Reds such as Mary Earps and Ella Toone receiving a particularly warm welcome by the many United fans in attendance. And with plenty of Austria supporters making the trip to Manchester, it made for a proper atmosphere on a blustery night, even if Sarina Wiegman’s eventual champions weren’t at their very best as they began the tournament with a nervy 1-0 win thanks to Beth Mead’s lopped finish into the East Stand net after 15 minutes. The attendance would smash the competition record – the previous high was 43,301 for the Germany v Norway 2013 final in Stockholm – but it would be beaten once again for the Wembley showpiece 25 days later.
UNITED STATES v JAPAN | GOLD MEDAL MATCH, WEMBLEY, 9 AUG 2012
Now we’re past the 80K mark, and – not for the first (or indeed last) time in this feature – Wembley is the venue. It’s a good excuse to wistfully recall the 2012 Olympics; a summer which seemed to inspire the whole nation as crowds flocked to every event, many of which took place well beyond London (such as Old Trafford, which hosted group and knockout games for men’s and women’s football). Unfortunately for Casey Stoney and her team-mates within the Team GB squad, the women were beaten by Canada in Coventry at the quarter-final stage, but the eventual gold medal match still received huge attention in the capital, with every American and Japanese visitor desperately seeking out any spare tickets. In front of a record attendance for the women’s game at the Olympics, the US won 2-1 to avenge their 2011 World Cup final loss and claim their fourth Olympic gold in women’s football. With the biggest stadium at Paris 2024’s tournament holding just under 70,000, this attendance record is one that won’t be beaten any time soon.
WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL FIXTURE IN EUROPE | RECORD: 87,192
ENGLAND v GERMANY | EURO 2022 FINAL, WEMBLEY, 31 JUL 2022
The Women’s Euros gripped a nation last summer from the moment the tournament kicked off at Old Trafford, and those lucky souls to have successfully applied for final tickets – some of which were £7.50 for under-16s! – were left rubbing their hands together after England and Germany progressed from the semis. Unlike the chaotic scenes that marred the men’s Euros final at the same stadium the previous summer, everyone seemed to be in the correct seat for this game, and the positive vibes reached a whole new level when our own Ella Toone scooped a wonderful goal home just after the hour mark. The Germans would hit back, before Chloe Kelly went shirtless in celebration following her extra-time winner, on the greatest day yet for the Lionesses. Rarely has the new Wembley been so packed, with 87,192 being higher than every men’s FA Cup final since 2018. (The record for the new Wembley? 89,874, for the 2008 men’s FA Cup final between Portsmouth and Cardiff).
UNITED STATES v CHINA | WOMEN’S WORLD CUP FINAL, ROSE BOWL, 10 JUL 1999
There aren’t many stadiums on Earth capable of housing over 90,000, regardless of demand for tickets, but the mighty Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California is one of them. (For a really daft stadium capacity, search up India’s Motera Stadium, where the Cricket World Cup final is being played today.) United’s men played at the Rose Bowl in July 2014, beating LA Galaxy 7-0 in Louis van Gaal’s first game in charge, but even the epic crowd that day was shy of the total when the USWNT won the ultimate prize on home soil. Much like the USA 94 men’s final at the Rose Bowl, it would be decided on penalties following a 0-0 draw, and Brandi Chastain’s celebration after firing home the decisive kick (with her weaker foot!) remains one of the most iconic images in women’s football.
ANY WOMEN’S FIXTURE WORLDWIDE | RECORD: 91,648
BARCELONA v WOLFSBURG | WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL, NOU CAMP, 22 APR 2022
The Rose Bowl record stood for almost 23 years as the biggest crowd in any women’s game, but if any venue was likely to trump that, it was the Nou Camp – a stage befitting the myriad talents of Barcelona Femeni, where they’ve increasingly played in recent years prior to its temporary closure for redevelopment this summer. In March 2022, a UWCL Clasico against Real Madrid drew in 91,553. Barça won with ease, setting up an even more tantalising semi, against Wolfsburg. The 95 additional bums on seats saw the record go once more, and Barça won again – their 40th win in their 40th game that season, although Lyon would beat them in the UWCL final. How long will this record last? Possibly not too long –once the Nou Camp redevelopment is complete in 2026, it’ll have space for 105,000 (and it’ll have a roof). Barça Femeni v United Women in the UWCL in three years’ time? Hell, yeah!
53,000 DICK, KERR v ST HELENS | CHARITY MATCH, GOODISON PARK, 27 DEC 1920
As much as we love to harp on about the incredible recent development of the women’s game, some of the crowd figures from a century ago are staggering – not least for this charity game between the Preston-based works team of Dick, Kerr & Co (right), and St Helens Ladies. Popularity of women’s football increased greatly during the First World War, with Dick, Kerr leading the way as they travelled to countless charity games to raise money for injured servicemen. This was one such fixture, played in front of 53,000 at Everton’s home, which Dick, Kerr won 4-0. Within a year the FA banned women’s teams from playing on FA-affiliated grounds, forcing most women’s team to disband, while others such as Dick, Kerr continued to play away from the spotlight. The team was finally dissolved in 1965, six years before the FA ban was finally lifted.