Women’s Super League reality check after just 997 fans turn up for Everton vs West Ham

Aurora Galli scores Everton's second goal against West Ham/Women's Super League reality check after just 997 fans turn up for Everton v West Ham

After the historic high of a sold-out Emirates Stadium on Saturday, the Women’s Super League was given a reality check on Sunday when just 997 supporters turned up for Everton v West Ham United.

The 60,160 who watched Arsenal beat Manchester United was the first time the Emirates had been officially sold out for a WSL fixture and set a new record for the division.

Arsenal’s off-field ambition coupled with extensive and proactive marketing means they have attracted large turn-outs repeatedly to the usual home of their men’s ground over the past 18 months but the meeting of two bottom-half sides on Sunday, which saw Everton win 2-0, served as a reminder that Arsenal’s big numbers are the exception, not the norm.

Martina Piemonte puts Everton ahead at Walton Hall Park/Women's Super League reality check after just 997 fans turn up for Everton v West Ham
Martina Piemonte puts Everton ahead at Walton Hall Park. The win over West Ham was the hosts' first league win since the reverse fixture in December - Emma Simpson/Getty Images

That said, turnouts as low as this one at Everton are also outliers. The 2,959 who attended Brighton’s 1-0 home loss to Liverpool earlier on Sunday was a little bit closer to the median in that a majority of WSL games typically attract crowds upwards of a few thousand, and in the first half of the season, the average crowd was 7,457. That has been steadily rising ever since England’s Euro 2022 triumph.

Neither of the men’s affiliate boards at Everton and West Ham could currently claim to be pulling out all the stops to grow the women’s game. West Ham’s women have not been afforded a chance to play at the London Stadium since 2019. Everton are at least going back to Goodison Park for March’s Merseyside derby, but for their regular games at Walton Hall Park, the surroundings do not scream professional football.

It is a ground that, for the most part, has no roof. Behind the two teams’ technical areas, television cameras are perched on scaffolding. The temporary structure appears to wobble in the wind.

To their credit, a passionate but relatively small group of Everton supporters situated to the left of the press box did their best to make some noise, banging a drum and singing songs such as Spirit of the Blues. But to the right of the only covered stand, behind the goal that Everton attacked in the second half, at times there was little atmosphere. There are no terraces around about 80 per cent of the pitch.

It was a crying shame that there were not more people present to witness Aurora Galli’s long-range, left-footed strike into the top corner that clinched the 2-0 victory, just moments after her fellow Italy international Martina Piemonte had headed in the opening goal. That quickfire double gave Everton their first league victory since December’s reverse fixture away at West Ham.

Everton's Karoline Olesen receives medical treatment /Women's Super League reality check after just 997 fans turn up for Everton v West Ham
Everton's Karoline Olesen receives medical treatment to an upper-leg injury before being carried off on a stretcher. Her manager Brian Sorensen said: 'It doesn't look good' - Gary Oakley/Getty Images

“We’re really disappointed with the result, given the way we’ve been playing,” West Ham manager Rehanne Skinner said, referencing the back-to-back 2-1 victories they had enjoyed over Arsenal in Bristol City prior to travelling to Everton. “Collectively we feel like we’ve not given the best account of ourselves today. We were a little bit indecisive out of possession at times, and, on the ball, we weren’t giving as much support to the player on the ball as what we have been doing in recent games. Consistency is definitely the key.”

There was concern for Everton in stoppage-time as Karoline Olesen, the 19-year-old Denmark youth international midfielder, was carried off on a stretcher with an upper-leg injury. A worried Brian Sorensen confirmed that she had been taken to hospital for examination. The Everton manager added: “It doesn’t look good. It’s a big injury.”

The result moved Everton three points above West Ham, keeping them two points behind Aston Villa, who enjoyed an impressive away win at Tottenham. Bristol City remain rooted to the foot of the table following their 5-2 loss at Leicester City.

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