Former England Women captain Kelly Smith believes the women’s game now “stands on its own” after over a third of British adults said they were interested in women’s football.
The 2019-20 Barclays Women’s Super League gets under way on Saturday, with more than 40,000 tickets sent out for both the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on the opening day and Chelsea against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on September 8.
According to research by YouGov, 34 per cent of more than 2,000 British people questioned are fans of the women’s game, and most of those interested in the women’s game think it deserves the same profile as the men’s.
Smith said: “A few years ago, men’s football defined the women’s game, but not now.
“The women’s game stands on its own, and I think that is down to the last couple of tournaments and the work that brands like Barclays have done to support it.
“Making it accessible for everyone has been huge, and the women’s game should be incredibly proud of what it has achieved.
“That being said, there’s still room to evolve and develop, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.”
England’s semi-final defeat to the United States at this summer’s World Cup remains the most-watched broadcast of the year, and the Football Association wants to capitalise on its surge in popularity and grow the game further.
The FA plans to make football available to all girls at school by 2024, after the poll revealed three-quarters of adult women were denied access to the sport when they were younger.
Barclays global head of sponsorship and media Tom Corbett said: “It’s an exciting time to be a part of football.
“We expect the new season of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League to generate record-breaking attendances after a massively popular World Cup this summer.
“It is clear that this is the beginning and with the vast majority of girls still not having access to football, we are determined to work alongside the FA, to give all girls the same access in school as boys by 2024.”
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