Beth Mead: Arsenal forward says record WSL crowd is ‘still just the beginning’

A record Women’s Super League crowd is “still just the beginning” for women’s football, says Arsenal’s Beth Mead.

The forward scored in the Gunners’ 4-0 thrashing of Tottenham, which was watched by 47,367 at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal’s usual home, Meadow Park, has a capacity of 4,500 and was sold out for their season-opening fixture against Brighton, another 4-0 victory .

Mead said the Emirates Stadium crowd “brought so much energy” to Arsenal’s dominant display against Spurs.

Mead, the Golden Boot winner and player of the tournament at Euro 2022 this summer, curled home a superb effort for Arsenal after five minutes on Saturday.

The Women’s Euros was the most attended ever with an aggregate attendance of more than half a million. England’s victory over Germany in the final was watched by 87,192 spectators – a record for a men’s or women’s European Championship final.

“It was incredible what we did in the summer but now we want to continue this and hopefully this is still just the beginning,” said Mead.

The 27-year-old was given one of the loudest ovations during Arsenal’s win over Spurs when she was replaced by summer signing Lina Hurtig after 74 minutes and said the noise was “ridiculous”, adding: “I’ve never experienced that before, the fans were incredible.”

She said it can be hard to play in front of smaller crowds because the players draw so much energy from the fans, with Arsenal captain Kim Little echoing Mead’s thoughts, saying it “makes a huge difference” to have a packed stadium backing the team.

Little added: “Thank you to the fans for coming. We put on a show – I hope they enjoyed it. You are so aware of the noise.”

From the first whistle, the fans were raucous and created a party atmosphere, with the home supporters enjoying an emphatic victory on the pitch but also aware they were part of a momentous day for women’s football.

Vivianne Miedema, who scored twice, said it is important to play well so that “people come back to the stadium”.

“You feel like something special is happening,” she added. “It is just really nice to be a part of it.”

Crowd ‘lapping it up’

As was often the case at the Euros, fans did not file out of the ground as soon as the full-time whistle blew but stayed to revel in the celebrations, dancing and singing along to the music as the players did a lap of honour while stopping to sign autographs and pose for pictures with children in the stands.

It is that family-friendly atmosphere that has set women’s football apart and Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham said he was “hugely proud” of a day that marks “another big milestone for women’s football”.

He added: “I’m proud that our club is playing a big part in that. We sold over 52,000 tickets today, which is a phenomenal result.

“The real credit goes to our fans, who have really responded to the call after the Euros when they said they wanted to leave a legacy and see the stadium full in WSL games.”

Arsenal face Manchester United in November and Chelsea in January at the Emirates and Venkatesham said the focus has to be on “building”.

The Gunners played at the Emirates four times during last season’s WSL campaign, where they finished second to Chelsea by one point. They are due to play there in five more league games in 2022-23 with their home Champions League matches also set to be held at the bigger stadium, should they qualify for the group stage .

Former England defender Anita Asante said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It is fantastic. To capitalise on the momentum of the Euros is what we wanted to see. We wanted to see stadiums full and creating this kind of atmosphere.

“There is a thirst for women’s football at the moment and it is great that they can showcase games like this in major, big stadiums.”

BBC presenter and former England and Arsenal defender Alex Scott said the crowd were “lapping it up” while ex-England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis added “we want more of this”.

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