The Women’s Super League has a responsibility to capitalise on the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 success, according to Manchester United boss Marc Skinner.
United are set to open their WSL season against Reading in front of a record-breaking home crowd at Leigh Sports Village, with ticket sales already surpassing 6,500.
Skinner was head coach of Orlando Pride when the United States won the 2019 World Cup and cautioned that the onus was on English clubs not to repeat the petering post-tournament momentum he witnessed Stateside.
He said: “After the first game when the players got back, they do this tour and I think we had 10,000 [fans], when usually I think it’s like 2,000.
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“And unfortunately there it dropped off. I just think sustainability here, it can be a really momentous season for us.
“What I would like to do now is if we can shift as clubs and teams, we can shift that momentum into our styles of play on the field, to keep fans coming back, not just to see the Lionesses but to see our teams.
“That’s our responsibility, as teams, to make it a really good watch, so we’re going to try our best to do that, we’re going to try to make our games as entertaining as possible, of course try and win those games, and hopefully we can keep those crowds really high this year.”
One face United fans will not see when the Reds run out on Saturday is popular midfielder Jackie Groenen, whose sudden departure to Paris St Germain was announced on Thursday.
It was, said Skinner, simply a case of the right deal landing at the right time and conversations escalating into something more serious that benefitted both parties.
He said: “I understand the fans may be frustrated in this moment, but we have plenty of players now that have the opportunity to step up and show their qualities. We weren’t expecting that to happen, but it was a moment which is good business for everyone involved.”
Earlier this month England midfielder Keira Walsh joined Barcelona on a record-breaking fee for the women’s game, estimated to be in excess of £350,000.
But it’s not just the number on the cheque that’s evolved off the back of England’s successful summer, said Skinner. Player retention — and the forward-thinking that becomes possible with it — is another exciting development.
“We can now offer longer-term contracts and more sustainable contracts,” he explained.
“There has been a bit of an expectation change from the success of the Euros. There’s a lot of new investment into teams, which is great. Contracts will be adapting, will be changing.”
And if the product on the pitch is there, Skinner believes people will watch, rain or shine.
“Once everybody realises how strong our league is becoming, once they feel fully part of it, it won’t be a choice [not to attend due to weather],” he added.
“We have a responsibility to perform so our fans love what we do and keep coming back.
“English winter, who knows how harsh it will be this year, but let’s try to be the sunshine.”