The growing popularity of the women’s game has been inspiring for thousands of supporters.

But spearheaded by the Lionesses’ success and the Women’s Super League (WSL) seeing record breaking crowds this season, the increase in attendances has resulted in expectations from fans which many say are unrealistic.

This is leading to players receiving criticism online.

Young fans with signs asking for players shirts has become a common theme at both Premier League and WSL fixtures, yet at Premier league matches it is a rare occurrence for a player to follow through with the request or even take a photo.

Everton Women v Liverpool Ladies - Alamy Images under agreed licence
Everton women celebrate in the Merseyside derby (Alamy Images)

Before the Lionesses’ 2022 European Championship success attendances were much lower at WSL matches and interacting with players was easier.

Now, as the women’s games start to move to Premier League stadiums, it is impossible for players to meet and take photos with 40,000 fans.

“I have had fans message me on social media criticising players for lack of time,” BBC Sport journalist Giulia Bould told MerseySportLive.

“The women’s game is changing considerably from the small, intimate settings of matches to football on a global scale. With that comes player security.

“These women are now stars. They are celebrated athletes. Gone are the days when 23 fans could easily access the squad at the final whistle, and each get a photo.”


This comes after England and Manchester United Women’s goalkeeper Mary Earps received backlash online from a disgruntled parent for not stopping for their child following Manchester United’s 0-5 away win against Everton Women at Walton Hall Park.

Bould said: “Generally, the behaviour at Walton Hall Park is one of a family atmosphere. However, I have seen over the last 12 months a shift where it feels fans expect more from the players in that watching the game just isn’t enough.

“This increases tenfold when a Lioness is in the opposing side.

“She (Earps) is undoubtedly a star. Everton fans as well as her own supporters all wanted a photograph. It was so frustrating to see the criticism of her for not covering hundreds who wanted to meet her.

“So, fans are best to enjoy being part of growing Women’s football rather than putting unrealistic expectations on player’s time.”

It is not just in the WSL where players are faced with criticism for not spending more time with fans.

In September The Lionesses were subject to aggressive chanting of “Get off the bus”, by a congregation of fans following a 2-1 win against Scotland at the Stadium of Light.

The women’s game is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK in terms of both participation and attendances.

As a result of this, the pitch side meet and greets, where everyone leaves happy, that were common between players and fans are becoming a thing of the past.

Peter MacFarlane, the Secretary of the Everton Women Official Supporters Club, is hoping for change.

Speaking to MerseySportLive, he said: “The players are being put under undue pressure, and it is not healthy for the growth of the game.

“It is certainly not sustainable and if things aren’t done now to curb this attitude, then it will end up driving a wedge between the fans and the players.

“As the game has grown, the sense of entitlement has grown with it. It has almost become a culture of expecting and wanting the players time and reacting so badly if you don’t get that.”

MacFarlane has been going to support Everton Women since 2017 and has seen the increased popularity of both his club and the league first hand but has also seen how fan behaviour has started to change in recent years.

He said: “Unfortunately, it seems to be a common theme these days that people tend to go to these matches not solely to support the players or watch the matches.

“As supporters, it’s our job to go there and support and the only thing we can expect in return is that the players give their all for 90 minutes. Anything beyond that is not expected, certainly not included in your ticket.”

It looks as if the celebrity status of WSL players will only continue to grow in stature.
The question now being asked is  how the safety of players can be ensured as the increase in attendances and popularity of the sport show no signs of slowing down.