Chelsea boss Emma Hayes called for the Women’s Super League to raise its ticket prices after the Blues clinched a 3-0 victory over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
General admission to the match sold out well before Sunday afternoon’s kick-off, with 38,350 ultimately making the trip to west London.
Hayes, returning to the dugout for the first time since her emergency hysterectomy last month, was delighted by the turnout but remained resolute in her assessment of the financial bottom line.
“I’d like to be here more,” she said. “I think we all know that solving the conundrum in the women’s game around what do we do from small stadia, is there a medium-term plan to go to medium-sized stadiums before eventually everybody comes home to the large stadium?
“I don’t know, but I’m absolutely certain we’re all outgrowing our small stadia, that I’m sure of.”
While some might suggest a ticket price increase would be ill-advised as the UK experiences a cost-of-living crisis and the country is preparing for a lengthy recession, Hayes insisted the move was necessary even simply to meet the added resources needed to stage matches in Premier League venues.
She said: “I know the players want to be here more, but I also think it’s important that there is a business cost to playing. I think one of the biggest things that perhaps we don’t talk enough about is how cheap women’s football is.
“I really believe we have to increase the overall pricing structure if we’re to play more in these places, because there is a cost implication of doing it. And I think the audiences are there, not for every game but certainly for maybe eight games, 12 games a year.
“But we have to be more ambitious for ourselves. Is it too cheap to watch women’s football? I think it is, especially the top games.”
Ticket prices across the women’s top flight remain considerably lower than in the men’s game, with adult prices for Sunday’s WSL contest between Chelsea and Spurs listed on the Blues’ website as starting at £9 compared to a cheapest price of £48 (for unrestricted view) to see the men in action against top Premier League opposition.
Some have also suggested low ticket pricing may be a factor in sometimes large discrepancies between announced sales figures and actual attendances across the WSL.
Sunday’s victory, which launched defending champions Chelsea to the top of the WSL table, was a rematch of the 2019 London derby between the same sides, when 25,000 fans watched Bethany England score a fourth-minute winner for the Blues.
The visitors made a bright start but the hosts soon took control, Sam Kerr netting her sixth in five WSL matches against Spurs to open the scoring in the 12th minute before Erin Cuthbert sent a stunning volley into the top right corner from the edge of the area.
It was all wrapped up before the break when Lauren James was charged down in the area and Guro Reiten made no mistake from the spot.
Spurs boss Rehanne Skinner was left to pick apart what went wrong after her side could only muster one real opportunity in the second half.
She said: “I thought we moved the ball very well and created some opportunities to get in the final third, but I don’t think we were convincing in and around our shooting opportunities, which we probably should have been.
“We made a few mistakes and they’ve capitalised on that, and ultimately that cost us today.”
Skinner was more optimistic about what the weekend, which also saw Manchester United beat Arsenal in front of 40,064 fans at the Emirates on Saturday, means for the women’s game.
She added: “It’s great to have these one-off hits, but I think the most important thing across the league is how everybody’s average attendance goes up, that every single week every club is getting much more than a 1,500-ish average, so I still think there’s quite a lot of work to do.
“It’s quite attractive bringing it into a stadium and getting a crowd in, but we’ve got to get the crowd to all of our other games across the course of the season.”