By Nick Friend
“There should be a lot more.” These are the words of Jen King, a key player in Durham Women’s FC’s terrific debut season in the Women’s Super League. Playing their home games at New Ferens Park, predominantly on Sundays, the 250-strong average attendance should be far higher than it was in the season just gone.
With a student body of 17000, the home ground has the potential to become a fortress. A university partnership is so niche and unique that Durham must make the most of it. Manager Lee Sanders is right when he suggests that Durham CCC aside, Durham Women FC – despite their youthful existence – are plying their trade in a higher division than any other sporting club in the county. For, according to their sixth place finish in WSL2, they are the 14th best women’s football club in the country. Season tickets are £35 and students get in for just £1.50.
Defender Jen King cannot fathom why people would stay away. She suggests that there may be a certain preconception of women’s football. However, performances from the side are beginning to change such attitudes.
“Some people that come are unsure of what to expect and then 15 minutes in, they start watching. A couple of meaty tackles went in and they all sat up and went – ‘all right, women actually tackle like that.’ Then a few headers were won and some good strikes came in and it shocked some of the men who don’t really watch the women’s game. They didn’t realise that these things happened in the women’s game. They thought that nobody shoots from more than 10 yards out and that people don’t head the ball. You quickly realise that all of that happened and at a better standard than the much of the men’s stuff that you’d go and watch. Women can’t do some of the stuff that men can do – we can’t ping it 60 yards so we have to actually play it. All those guys have been back since then and seem to enjoy it.”
There is an understanding at the club that innovation is required in order to ensure that this new club has a loyal supporter base.
“We want 6 and 7 year-olds to come and watch the game. They can meet the players and get their face painted in the Wildcat colours. They’re in touch with the players. They can actually see them and speak to them. They’re part of the club. The players stay out on the pitch and talk to the fans afterwards. We started with no fans but now we have 260/270 every week. We want these young girls to aspire to be these girls out on the pitch.”
For a club that started from scratch a year ago, it appears in excellent shape to go from strength to strength both on and off the pitch.
Get behind the girls and look out for information regarding their FA Cup 3rd round tie in early February
Photograph: Durham Women’s Football Club