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Friday 13th February 2015 ko 20.06

Women’s International Friendly


UNITED STATES 1 (Morgan 25)

Att 14,369 at StadiumMK, Bletchley (MK Dons FC)

Entry- Comp’

Programme £3

The groundhopping purist tends to have a long list of what they won’t go to see. Amongst that list is friendlies, women’s fixtures, games at a stadium that aren’t the home club’s home fixture, and of course there’s always the vexed question of the MK Dons. There’s few who would try to defend the uprooting of the old Wimbledon to Buckinghamshire, but the club that built StadiumMK is certainly flourishing, and the stadium is by anyone’s standards a fantastic edifice, designed as it is by HOK, who also were behind Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. Nevertheless, there are still plenty who would fall into the “Never forgive, never forget,” camp so short of there being no programme, the teams being reserves, and the game finishing goalless this was a close as you can get to the ultimate “Irk the purist” game!

Of course all that negativity entirely misses the point, this was marketing genius on the part of the FA. A stadium that’s easy to get to, tickets for £5 and scheduled on the Friday before half-term, the idea was to attract as many young people as possible.

I was at the last England Women’s international, at Wembley Stadium and the impact was the same, a much younger more feminine demographic, which with so many negative influences on young women these days, the FA actively promoting football as a healthy lifestyle can only be a good thing. There’s a real big picture to be found here, and let’s face it this really wasn’t aimed at the likes of me, however much I enjoyed it!

You have to accept that many there will have little or no experience of attending a sporting event. The queues for the tea bars at half-time looked horrendous, principally because few knew to move round to am quieter outlet, and one of the design advantages of StadiumMK is that you can see the action from the concourses. If you’re the kind of patron that winces when the young England fans cheered the US goal because, hey, they scored a goal, then you will hate this kind of experience. But please, dear reader, please understand the bigger picture. Who would you prefer your daughter to have as a role model, Kim Kardashian, or Karen Carney?

What this game wasn’t was close, England shorn of the injured Toni Duggan looked bereft up front, and a fairer result would have been around the 0-3 mark. That said, it could have easily finished 1-1, scorer Jodie Taylor was clearly on-side when Fran Kirby fired in her initial shot. Maybe that was the footballing gods smiling on the Americans, the draw would have been a travesty.

Hopefully the defeat won’t have much impact on the attendance at the next Men’s International, back at Wembley versus Lithuania on the 27th March, with family-based discounts available. The FA get a lot wrong, but their promotion of the women’s game is to be applauded. I suspect that many will read this and carry on debating the rights and wrongs of the MK Dons. On this evening that simply wasn’t relevant.