Arsenal Women’s Jen Beattie debates Away Fan Sections in women’s football

Arsenal Women’s Jen Beattie debates ‘Away Fan Sections’ in women’s football by Michelle

The interest in women’s football and the crowds that it is drawing are ever on the increase it would seem, with an average 200% increase in match attendance across the Women’s Super League in the 2022-23 season so far.  However, there is no stipulation from the league that crowds need to be segregated to keep home and away fans apart, as is the case in the men’s game.  Away ends is a given in men’s football, shouldn’t it be the case in the women’s game too – particularly for the big games at least?

In mid November, when Arsenal welcomed Manchester United to Emirates Stadium, attendance was in excess of 40,000.  The travelling Man United fans were housed in their own section of the stadium, with Manager Mark Skinner saying of away ends, after the match: Whether it’s concrete proof or not, if you give us away ends you will get a lot of fans through the door. Tonight was a good indicator of that. We just had to go to them at the end, it was good to know where they were.

Indeed, Arsenal fans are away at Villa Park to take on Aston Villa on Sunday and the ‘away’ ticket allocation has sold out!

Arsenal’s Jen Beattie has been debating the issue of Away Sections at women’s football games on the first episode of 3 players & a podcast, together with Rachel Yankey and Izzy Christiansen.

I know it was a terrible moment for Arsenal but to have that moment for United to be able to go and celebrate with their fans in a big win, I thought it was brilliant, said Arsenal defender Beattie.

The atmosphere was so visible. Even recently in the Champions League when we played Juventus, again we had our away fan section and there weren’t loads of fans but enough to be causing songs to go back and forth.

I appreciate the fans because they travel here, there and everywhere, especially across England. So I think it is nice for them to be able to come together as part of a community, as an away fan, and then for us to be able to celebrate with them, I think it’s a really nice thing.

Former England star Yankey agreed saying When you’re playing, you always want to know where your support is. I can’t remember what year it was, but we played against France to get through to a World Cup and it was just all ‘Allez les Bleus’ and then you heard a little tiny group of England fans.

But that grabbed you and you realised: ‘You know what, we’ve got to play for them’. I think it was Fara [Williams] that scored and all of us ran over to the end our fans were in – they were way up in the gods, but it was special. I think it can give players a lift, an extra boost.

On the flipside of that, I loved going to the final of the Euros where it just felt like a bit of a carnival atmosphere. Everyone was just friendly, wanted to be there to enjoy the game and support.

Everton’s Christiansen added: I walked out with the girls at Anfield earlier in the season and we were told 8,000 tickets had been sold, but there was 28,000 people in there. There was a massive surge of people filling up the stadium when we were warming up and I was like ‘God, this is incredible’. And 25,000 were Liverpool fans, 3,000 Everton fans.

I am one of those players that thrives off any noise. I remember winning a free kick for us. They had a corner and we counter-attacked them; I did a bit of gamesmanship and put my body in the way of the ball, took a free kick further up the pitch and then let our team settle after defending a corner and all their fans were booing – and I loved it. I absolutely loved it.

I think we’re a stage in women’s football where let’s just enjoy it how it is. If away sections are allocated, embrace it, do it.

I just think we’re at a stage where I think there’s a luxury of being able to do both.

What are your views on the Away Fan Section debate?  For me, it would seem an easy thing to manage when matches are being played at the bigger stadiums but, with the majority of women’s games still being played at the smaller stadiums with a capacity of approx. 4-6000 it would seem like a pretty difficult thing to incorporate on a regular basis, at the moment..

Michelle Maxwell

Follow Michelle on Just Gooner Women on Twitter for regular updates on the Arsenal Women’s Team!

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