Women’s football fans enjoy WSL but unhappy with refereeing, survey finds

The first in-depth survey of fans of women’s football in England has found widespread satisfaction with the product but criticism over the cost.

The Football Supporters Association spoke to 2,156 fans, three-quarters of whom had attended a women’s football match over the previous season. It found that the enthusiasms and complaints of fans were consistent with those in the men’s game but with a few key differences.

While supporters were not asked directly whether they enjoyed what they were watching, other indicators suggested they were happy: 72% of respondents said there was a vibrant fan culture at their club; more than three‑quarters (77%) said tickets were either good or very good value for money. Meanwhile, 89.5% of people agreed with the statement: “I feel safe attending women’s football.”

In the list of complaints, however, there was a consistent message: 37% of respondents listed the cost of travel (and the distance required to travel to a match) as a problem, making it the most commonly held issue among fans. There were also complaints over the price of merchandise, with only a third believing it to be good value for money, while almost half (45.3%) said that the cost of watching women’s football on TV had stopped them from tuning in.

The cost of being a fan was not the only issue to overlap with concerns among supporters of the men’s game – only 5.8% of those questioned strongly agreed that refereeing was of the required standard; 77.3% also said that TV had too much say in deciding kick-off times. It should also be noted that 52.2% of those surveyed were male. In terms of developing the game, however, two strong points of divergence emerged among fans. The first (held by 73%) was that pre-qualifying matches should be introduced at international level, perhaps inspired by recent drubbings handed out by the Lionesses. Secondly, 89.4% of supporters believe there should be greater financial redistribution from the men’s to the women’s game.