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Women's Super League

On fan culture in WSL

Whilst men’s football has largely, but not entirely, moved away from the hooliganism prevalent in the 1980s, it’s something women’s football has never had to worry about. From Kiruna to Cluj, there is a placidity about women’s football fans, and although they all have their own identities – German women’s football fans are typically German, English women’s football fans are typically English etc. – they lack a brash edge.

Even if you were to get away from a league that was set up to target families and children and go elsewhere in Europe, you will find that same, slightly softer edge – an environment not designed for children, but one you can bring them into. As the sport continues to grow and the fanbase continues to grow around the world, it’s likely that that softer edge will begin to harden. And although it’s unlikely women’s football teams will ever end up with their own firms – a specific incompatibility with the hooligan mentality and the enjoyment of women’s sports a factor – what was once a small group of fans, will bloom and boom.

When Manchester United set up a professional women’s football team and were granted a licence into the Championship last season, their fans dragged up the average attendance for the league exponentially. Overnight, thousands of new fans had descended on the league and with most largely new to women’s football, they found a different culture than they were used to. Initially clashing with other fans from around the league, both new and old were forced to adapt to each other and even now, the atmosphere generated by United fans is unlike others around the league.

Whilst it would have been no surprise a few year ago to see Chelsea fan banners at Bristol City games, when the Robins frequently took young Blues (such as Jodie Brett and Millie Farrow) on loan, it’s equally as expected to see United fans at Sheffield United games (when there isn’t a fixture clash). And indeed, just as United fans have bolstered WSL attendance, they contribute to the crowds at Blades’ matches when they go and support the healthy number of loanees that have a turn on the other side of the Peak District.

Just as there are some who still find Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City et al. supporter groups and fans brash, there are those who aren’t going to warm on the United fans – even if they have softened in the year and a half they’ve been around – and much like Maria at Arsenal, Natalie at United is here to stay.

But at the heart of the Barmy Army, much like the other supporters groups around the league, there is the deep sense of community and kinship.

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