SHANGHAI (AFP) — An average of more than 25,000 fans will attend the 32 matches in the women's football World Cup which kicks off here next week, officials said Friday.
Monday's opener between Germany and Argentina is a sellout with one third of all tickets for Shanghai's Hongkou stadium going to individuals and the rest snapped up by institutions and VIPs, said organiser Lily Xue.
"We can expect 25,000 to 30,000 spectators at each game," Xue, vice president of the Chinese Football Association and general secretary of the World Cup organising committee, told a press conference here.
Attendances were high during the inaugural women's World Cup in China in 1991, but the United States broke all records in 1999, when average crowds were almost 40,000 and a massive 90,000-plus attended the final.
That record is unlikely to be challenged during the September 10-30 fifth World Cup in five Chinese cities, but attendances will be well above the 20,000 per game average in World Cup matches since 1991.
FIFA, world football's governing body, said growth in global television viewership reflected the soaring popularity of the women's game.
"This year's event will set yet another benchmark in terms of event coverage," said Worawi Makudi, chairman of the Committee for Women's Football, who is also a member of FIFA's Executive Committee.
"I am convinced that the performances of the 16 teams over the next three weeks will further enhance this trend."
Only eight years ago, the Women's World Cup was broadcast in just 67 countries. By 2003, it had swollen to 144 territories worldwide with a cumulative television audience of 526 million viewers.
More than 26 million women now play football, amounting to 10 percent of the world's footballers, according to FIFA.
For the first time in the history of the tournament, teams are to receive prize money, with one million dollars for the winner, 800,000 for the runner-up and 650,000 for third place.
Fourth place gets 550,000 dollars, while quarter-finalists receive 350,000 and teams finishing from ninth to 16th place get 250,000.
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