As attendances continue to flourish across the Women's Super League and the action on the pitch grows ever more competitive, Jonas Eidevall has shared his perspective on how WSL clubs can keep evolving together.
Over 10,000 supporters are expected at Ashton Gate for this weekend's tie with Bristol City, with a considerable number of away supporters also making the journey west.
Speaking ahead of Sunday's clash, our head coach reflected on the journey the club has taken with our supporters and why it's so promising to see similar growth happening across the league.
"We’ve come so far," said Eidevall. "Five years ago, it was one offs playing at major stadiums. Now it becomes almost an 'every week' thing."
"It shows the development. I think we have been the leading club in the league, playing most games at the biggest stadiums and drawing great attendances, but as a league, everyone needs to do. I'm so happy that more and more clubs are doing that, because that's the only way we can drive this league forward together."
As for comparative crowds across the league, Eidevall pointed out how quickly our club's attendances have evolved and how he believes this will be replicated.
"I understand when you compare some WSL attendances to us having 60,000 against Wolfsburg, it doesn't sound like much. But you need to start somewhere. How many people did we have two seasons ago in our league opener against Chelsea at Emirates Stadium? 9000. It's hard to believe today, right?
"You start to learn a lot as an organisation and learn who those 9000 people are who turn up to the games. You ask 'How can we advertise to reach our target groups better and to connect with the fans?' 'What kind of experience can we provide so they want to come back the next time?'
"The solution is not to go back and say 'oh, let's only play at smaller stadiums.' I think the decision clubs have made to put games at big stadiums to begin with is a great one. Now it's about what the league and the clubs can do with the information so they can grow."
Our head coach also believes the next step is collective growth of the Women's Super League on the pitch to improve our standing in Europe. After Manchester United followed our exit from the UEFA Women's Champions League qualifying stage this week, Chelsea are the only English side remaining in this year's competition.
"The reality is that if Wolfsburg had beaten Barcelona in the Champions League final, the WSL wouldn't have had a single direct qualifying spot for the group stage. Our league is ranked fourth in Europe and why is that? The English teams have done worse than the Spanish and the German and the French teams for the last five years. That is no one else's problem: that is our own.
"If I look at it from the Arsenal's perspective, being in the WSL is a very competitive league. Do I think there is a lot of themes in the WSL that could compete in the group stage in the Champions League? I do. I think the Conti Cup group that Man United have been drawn into might actually be tougher than some of the Champions League groups. But those who decide on the UEFA Women's Champions League, they need to grow the whole of women's football in Europe. They are not just taking the WSL into account."
"Is there a demand for a Champions League with more teams? Could the qualifying process be different with more time in the season, rather than playing one-legged games on neutral grounds? Of course. But that is a separate issue."
"I think the balance is to start growing the Champions League for women with more teams. That way, you still have a good pathway for champions in Europe but you also get more opportunities in the league path for the strongest leagues in Europe, so that they can have more teams qualify for the group stage."
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