Birmingham City: Blues ladies proving the belles of St Andrew's

It has been a tough time of late to be a Birmingham City fan.

Since winning the Carling Cup in 2011, off-the-field turmoil at St Andrew's has been the scourge of the club, leaving the fans feeling frustrated and short of anything to shout about.

But there has been one big success story which has gone relatively unnoticed.

Who watches women's football?

  • Average attendances in the FAWSL are 570, last season's gates in the FA Women's Super League having increased by 10%.
  • Arsenal are the best-supported team, attracting average crowds of 1,400 - more than half the teams in last season's Blue Square Bet Premier.
  • Birmingham City Ladies' average gate at their shared home at Stratford Town is 451.
  • 70,584 watched Team GB beat Brazil at Wembley last July
  • Women's football is the country's fourth-largest team sport - 253,600 women play football every month in England
  • 5,143 girls' teams and 1,437 women's teams are registered with the FA

Since the introduction of the FA Women's Super League two years ago, Birmingham City Ladies have been the surprise package.

Despite having the sixth smallest budget of eight sides, the Bluegirls won the FA Women's Cup last year, beating Chelsea on penalties.

And they pushed Arsenal all the way in the Super League title race, finishing second for the second year running.

The ladies have started slowly this time, drawing their opening two league games of the season, against Chelsea and Lincoln, as well as suffering a 6-0 FA Women's Cup quarter-final exit against Arsenal.

But manager David Parker insisted: "The club has done a tremendous job in the past few years in progressing in difficult circumstances.

"On the men's side we have seen various players progress through the academy, in particular, Jack Butland playing at the Olympics, and [manager] Lee Clark and [former manager] Chris Hughton rebuilding the squad and still being competitive when other teams have had a much greater financial budget.

"So for us to lift a trophy is a great accomplishment that the whole club can be proud of during these times.

"Everyone deserves massive credit for their hard work which often goes unnoticed to the general public."

Our internal research tracker shows we sit at 36% awareness for the WSL - above the Capital One Cup and Europa League

Kelly Simmons Head of the national game

With England forwards Karen Carney and Rachel Williams accompanied by England defenders Laura Bassett and Rachel Unitt, Blues have a strong core.

"I believe we have a stronger squad than the previous two seasons," Parker told BBC Sport.

"There is no pressure at all on this club as we have the sixth smallest budget in the FAWSL so we are punching well above our weight.

"That is official from the FA. We all get told where we are in the 'money league'.

"But that doesn't mean we don't have high standards for ourselves in wanting to achieve our goals."

The Blues, who play their home games at Stratford Town, have seen an increase in attendances in recent years.

And Parker believes attitudes towards the women's game have improved since the introduction of the Super League.

"If the product is good and people enjoy coming and supporting the women's sides in this country then hopefully it gets rewarded with greater publicity," he said.

• Womens Super League history

  • Founded in 2010. Began April 2011
  • 16 clubs applied for inaugural season. Eight won two-year licences: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Chelsea, Doncaster Belles, Everton, Lincoln and Liverpool
  • In 2014 the league will expand to two tiers of 20, involving promotion and relegation

"However, it's a Catch 22 situation, in that it needs to be marketed well and highlighted to the general public so at they have the knowledge of when and where to watch a game.

"At least they then have the choice because, in the past, this information hasn't been easily available.

"I know many people who used to turn their nose up at the women's game and thought it was a laughing stock but, when they came to watch their first game, they were amazed at what they saw.

"The introduction of the FAWSL has been unbelievable for everyone involved in the women's game and it will keep having an impact at all levels in this country.

"However, in my view, it's just a start of what can be achieved if people keep investing in the game."