Double celebration for England's Lionesses and Wycombe Wanderers' 'Chairgirls'

Sunday, July 31 was a double celebration for women’s football in Burnham, writes Melissa Paulden.

Not only did the Lionesses win the Euro 2022 championships but Wycombe Wanderers Women played their inaugural friendly at their brand new home, Burnham FC’s 1878 Stadium.

And who better to face them than nearby national league team, Maidenhead United, who jumped at the chance to help the ‘chairgirls’ christen their home turf after the opposition pulled out of a pre-arranged match.

The historic meeting occurred just two weeks after the women’s first team and two other women’s’ teams: the reserves and U18s made an official move to the Wymers Wood Road ground for the 2022/23 season in a bid to increase training opportunities and to play in front of bigger crowds.

As a team used to already doing that, Maidenhead managed to swipe four goals from Wycombe in the friendly, giving none away, but despite the loss Wycombe celebrated afterwards with a visit to their new ground’s Blues Bar & Café to watch England win alongside a gathering of newfound Burnham-based fans.

Burnham’s media and marketing manager, Paul Butler, said it was a momentous occasion.

“Ultimately it was the first opportunity for Wycombe Wanderers Women to play here at home and to try the ground out, the facilities, and get a bit of promotion and to watch England in the Euros 2022 final,” he said.

“They set themselves up to watch the game, which was fantastic to see. It was a brilliant atmosphere, and they had drink and food and a real celebration. It was an introduction to their new home. They absolutely loved it.”

Of the England victory, Burnham FC’s chairman Glenn Skivington, said:

“It’s fantastic. It’s the first thing we’ve won in goodness knows how long and for the women to do it, I think, is really significant.

“The visibility of the Euros will have shown how high the quality of the football is to a lot of people who weren’t quite so sure about that. It was really impressive.”

The move to the 1878 Stadium is a timely coincidence, putting experienced players in front of bigger audiences, as the Euros did globally. Paul acutely added:

“These women haven’t just suddenly ‘switched on’ to that level of quality. That’s always been there if you’ve been watching women’s football for a while. It’s just that it’s been represented now to a global audience which will hopefully trigger a more inclusive future.”

Glenn confirmed this, adding that welcoming a women’s side is important for everyone. “It’s good from a profile perspective for both of us really. They are trying to, I suppose, produce footballers and improve their standards and obviously the football pitch and facilities that they use helps them to do that – and from our perspective it’s really good to have them here.

“But it’s not the first girls or women’s that we’ve had here. We’ve had juniors here training through the age groups and we also have American girls touring teams that come and use this as their ‘home’ venue.”

Paul said he hoped this is just the beginning of more women playing at Burnham as it aligns with their vision going forward for the club.

“We always had an idea to involve women’s football at some level and this was the perfect opportunity to introduce that into this environment and to involve our local audience.”

In his statement, issued on July 13, the Chairgirls’ first team manager Carl Simon, echoed that with: “We are delighted to be relocating to our new home ground, the 1878 stadium. I believe this to be the perfect place for us to play and welcome supporters.”

The Wycombe Wanderers Women’s season starts September 4. Prior to that are more pre-season friendlies against Sutton and Northampton (away on August 7 and 14 respectively) before two home matches against Kettering Town and Royal Wootton Bassett on August 21 and 28.

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