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Arsenal beat Manchester United in front of record breaking WSL crowd

Recently, Arsenal hosted Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in front of a 60,160-member record-breaking crowd. 


A selection of the BCOMS cohort were able to attend the game, both as media personnel and devoted football fans.  


They detail their experiences below

Raiyan Rafiq

The dedication of Arsenal fans is unparalleled. Wherever the team goes, there are hundreds of them following, spanning from as young as six-year-olds, all the way to over sixties. On that day, Arsenal sold out the Emirates, setting the highest attendance in WSL. The party started as early as 10am followed by a march towards the ground which has now become a tradition. 


The match kicked off at quarter past noon. I sat a few rows behind the bench, which is always an interesting zone as you get a clear shot of the bench and the two managers, hurling their tactics from the side-lines. To me, this is the most interesting point of view because you are close to the action while being surrounded by the reaction. And there are a lot of reactions. 


As a football romantic, it is beautiful to see the progress the game has made for women and as an Arsenal fan, it feels personally gratifying. However, as a woman of colour, there is something missing and that is diversity. The media room still has a long way to go, photographers are still predominantly men. There are more women holding the microphone but not enough women of colour either behind the cameras or in the boardroom. At times that can make you feel out of place. 


While the fanbase encompasses a broad spectrum of age groups, ethnic diversity remains a question mark in this regard too. There are only a handful of fans who are from a different ethnic background, or those who do partake in fan led initiatives. 


However, with each match day, a subtle but noticeable shift is occurring. There is a small increase in the representation of families from African or Asian backgrounds, a few more Muslim girls are coming through the turnstiles, realising they have the same stake in this game as everyone else. 


Shahad Afandi

I had the privilege of attending the Arsenal v Manchester United match at the Emirates Stadium – where I witnessed history.


The outcome of the game favoured Arsenal with a 3-1 scoreline. With an impressive turnout of 60,160 fans- this showed the increasing support of the women’s game. Having attended women’s matches since 2019, I have personally witnessed the growth and advocacy for female footballers. 


Arriving at the stadium two hours before kick-off, I spent time in the media section preparing and researching ahead of the game. After the game I attended the press conference where both Jonas Eidevall and Marc Skinner shared their insights on the match. As Jonas expressed his happiness with Arsenal’s victory stating, “I think the playing group and staff group has been phenomenal since the new year”.


This being my first experience in the press box for a women’s game, I was inspired and impressed by the significant presence of female journalists and reporters. However, the lack of representation of people from different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds impacted me greatly being the only woman wearing a hijab. Whilst this is disappointing, it highlights the need for greater diversity in the sport media industry.


Overall, being a devoted football fan since childhood I highly enjoyed this experience. I am grateful for the opportunity provided by BCOMS as I gained a unique insight into the work of sports journalists.


Nakeira West 

As a relatively new Arsenal women’s supporter, it’s been amazing to witness the rapid growth in the women’s game over the past few seasons. From selling out the Emirates last season for the Champions League semi-final v Wolfsburg to the most recent WSL record-breaking match against Manchester United. It has been great to see such an increase in interest and actually feel the heightened passion and investment at matches. 


However, whilst there is so much positivity surrounding the women’s game and it’s growth there is one thing that can still feel like we are lacking. 


I usually attend matches as a season ticket holder, however this time I was invited to attend this match in a box with Arsenal’s sponsor IL Makiage. When I eventually arrived at the box, a sweaty mess having gone in the wrong entrance and trekked around the whole stadium, I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the room.


It was quite a warm feeling when I walked in, and was greeted by an array of black, brown and white women of multi faith and ethnicities, a feeling of familiarity and I immediately felt as though I could be my true authentic self. Sounds a bit deep for a game of football, but often when I attend as a season ticket holder more so at Meadow Park, I’m very conscious that I’m one of the few non-white people in the stands or in the whole stadium to be honest, and often struggle with the lack of diversity in our team. 


I know that on pitch diversity is something the club have acknowledged and are working towards which is great and I think that in time this will also be reflected in the fan base. All in all, the Manchester United match had a great atmosphere throughout and it was probably one of the first times I’ve attended a women’s game and felt truly at home.


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