It looks like the UEFA Women's League Final at Cardiff City Stadium on the evening of June 01 will be an all French affair, like their Presidential runoff. PSG won in Barcelona in the semi-final 1st leg on Saturday 3-1 with a sell out crowd of 13,000 . I was in Manchester for the visit of 3 times winners Olympique Lyonnais who have been Feminine D1 champions for the last TEN SEASONS, plus 7 times Coupe de France. They have imported players from Japan, USA, Germany, Canada, Sweden and Norway.
Manchester City have only had a fully supported professional women's team for three years, but they have handled it big time. Eight of their squad are on the English Lionesses squad that go to the UEFA championships in the Netherlands this summer. Some earn £80,000 a year plus individual commercial sponsorships plus England fees. Captain Steph Houghton probably earns £200,000 plus, although some of her male counterparts take that much home in a week. Aslanni from Sweden, Ross and Beattie from Scotland, Campbell from Ireland, Middag from Netherlands and Lloyd from USA are all imports.
The day before we learned that the Notts County owner Alan Hardy had pulled the plug on their women's team, after he had moved them from Lincoln City 3 years earlier. Estimated income from gate receipts and sponsorships of £28,000 against running costs this season of £500,000 just doesn't add up.
Of course, Manchester City are loaded with all that Middle Eastern money. The women play at the Academy Stadium, 400 yds across a walkway across Alan Turing Way from the Edithad Stadium. The Academy has a capacity of 7,000 and league matches attract crowds of upto 2,000 with cheap prices of £6 and free for City season ticket holders and free for kids, as are the official programmes. 3,600 showed up on Saturday afternoon with free sky blue and white balloon hats for the kids and shiny grey or sky blue flags on sticks at each seat.. No alcohol is served and pies are £3.50. Mascots MOONBEAM and MOONCHESTER entertained the youngsters.
Across town Manchester United had a women's team from 2000 to 2005, actually they renamed the local Corinthians team, but when the Florida based Glazers took over it was dumped. No plans to have another senior women's team, although their u17 girls team is very good. The only other EPL club without a women's team is Southampton.
Next to the mini stadium is a £200 million Etihad Campus with about 20 pitches, offices, accommodation, medical centre, gynasium and more over 40 acres. Earlier in the day I was at The National Football Museum. www.nationalfootballmuseum.com which was crowded for the last weekend of the 1966 World Cup exhibition on the 4th floor. I bumped into a few OL fans there. Out on the streets the City marketing department had put out 300 city women's scarves. Take one and answer some questions on social media and you win a prize.
Its a nice atmosphere at the stadium and players sign photos and have selfies taken after each match. Just 4 stops from Manchester Piccadilly train station on the Metrolink tram, but iI took the 216 double decker from Piccadilly Gardens. I had a media ticket and there is a nice welcoming media centre with lots of information and fine food, and at half time THE BEST warm cookies anywhere. However NO official programmes were available there.
In less than 90 seconds the visitors were ahead after US players Carli Lloyd was penalized for hand ball in the box. Referee Katalin Kulcar of Hungary did not hesitate to point to the spot. It reminded me of referee Jack Taylor awarding a pk to Holland in the first minute of the World Cup Final against West Germany at Olympiastadium Munich in 1974. OR maybe Kim Milton Nielsen of Denmark an IT specialised with no soul for the game on many occasions being too harsh. Assistant referees and fourth official were from Hungary, Croatia and Netherlands, and the UEFA match observer from Norway. No expenses spared.
Anyway, Saki Kumagai sent Karen Bardsley the wrong way. 1-0 to the defending champions. City levelled from a Toni Duggan pass to Kosovare Asllani at the other end.. GAME ON !. Not for long though. Dzenifer Marozsan restored the lead a few minutes later. It finished 3-1 after a goal from Eugenie Le Sommer, who replaced American Alex Morgan, with City well beaten. It was Le Sommer's 6th goal in 7 European matches and the team has now scored 32 goals in those matches. OL plays as smooth as the silk from the Lyon silk looms. The 2nd legs are next Saturday April 29th at Stade de Lyon and at Parc des Princes.
The Sky Blue Women still have the Women's FA Cup Final to look forward to against Birmingham City on May 13th with an expected crowd of plus 50,000. Manager Nick Cushing is hoping to do better than the men's team.
Tickets for the UEFA Champions League Final on June 01 at 7.4pm are available from the FA of Wales.www.faw.org.uk UWCLF 2017. Only £6.00 for adults and £3.00 for concessions and children. It is part of a massive football festival in the Welsh capital with lots of music and interactive games and of course the mens Champions League final at the National Stadium of Wales, right in the heart of the city, on Saturday June 3. Expect to pay more than £6.00 for a ticket...MUCH MORE !!!