Arsenal’s record WSL crowd leaves the players happy as fandom flourishes

Veni, vidi, Vivianne. They came, 47,367 of them all told, shattering the Women’s Super League attendance record. Watched and roared as Arsenal turned this north London derby into a painless rout. And then, as Vivianne Miedema left the pitch after scoring two goals in each half, rose to applaud the performance of a Dutch master.

Until Saturday, the record for a WSL game was 38,272, when these teams met at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2019. But long before kick-off, as the streets around the Emirates Stadium filled up with families and excited kids off to their first game, it was clearly going to be smashed.

Related: Miedema doubles up as Arsenal rout Tottenham in front of record WSL crowd

The only surprise was that the crowd was not bigger. Arsenal revealed that 53,757 tickets were sold – meaning more than 6,000 people did not show up.

Those who did were rewarded with an Arsenal victory, which felt far more emphatic than the 4-0 scoreline suggested. The tone was set after five minutes, when England’s Euro 2022 hero Beth Mead found space – and then the target – and never faltered.

Two goals from Miedema and another from Rafaelle Souza followed, and the overwhelming impression was of one team dominating despite playing within themselves.

No wonder the Arsenal crowd – and the players – left happy. “The fans being here give us such an energy,” said Mead. “But hopefully this is just the beginning.

“I’ve never experienced a standing ovation before. I still feel like I am on cloud nine. I don’t think it will sink in for a long time.”

Along the way some Arsenal regulars noted a slightly spikier edge than usual at women’s matches, including a couple of full-throttle chants of “Stand up if you hate Tottenham” as well as booing when Tottenham’s Eveliina Summanen needed treatment for a minor injury.

It certainly was not sustained. And it certainly was not everyone. But, as two supporters said, perhaps Arsenal offering their men’s season ticket holders a cheap six-game pass for the women’s games here had slightly sharpened the atmosphere.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. For women’s football to continue to grow, it will need to broaden its church by attracting casual fans as well as longstanding believers.

And if that means there were some fans here who don’t necessarily follow every cough and spit of the women’s game, but revelled in a superb performance and a thumping win over their north London rivals, so be it.

The noise certainly paid its part, with the Tottenham manager, Rehanne Skinner, revealing that some of her players had at times not been able to hear and speak to each other as a result. But she also paid tribute to the fans who created history.

“It’s a fantastic achievement,” she said. “I’m glad the record has been broken. There’s probably been a delay due to Covid but hopefully it will soon be broken again.”

Since the Euros there have also been some who have been a little churlish or sceptical about the rise of women’s football, with some pointing out that West Ham played in front of a crowd of just over a thousand last week, while Leicester drew 2,868 when they played in the 32,000-capacity King Power stadium.

They are fair points. But the important thing is that women’s football continues to trend the right way. It is not competing with the men’s game. Rather its opposition comes from cinemas, restaurants, and whatever else families do with their free time. That cliche, build it and they will come, holds. But it will take time.

This was another emphatic sign the game is on the right track; another indication the millions who viewed England’s glorious Euros victory have become paid converts.

The Arsenal manager, Jonas Eidevall, said: “The game was the best advertisement for getting more people to come. And if they bring a friend next time, we will sell out.

“The club has really been investing a lot of time, energy and commitment into growing the game,” he added. “It was a very special moment for all of us. Being in front of stages like that – we just hope it will happen many, many times.”

At least 47,367 fans would agree.