Manchester United fans will know that, in just two days, the Reds’ women’s team will be in action against Dutch side PSV Eindhoven here in Malta. This friendly match will happen this Friday at the Tony Bezzina Stadium, Paola.
In fact, the Manchester United Women’s team is returning to Malta today for an intensive winter training camp ahead of the second half of the 2023/24 season.
After a successful stint on our island last season, Marc Skinner’s squad is set to revisit Malta from 3rd to 8th January.
Long story short
The Journal spoke with the Malta Tourism Authority’s CEO Carlo Micallef, who explained that the relationship between Manchester United and Malta spans over 60 years. Interestingly, Malta’s Manchester United Supporters’ Club stands as the world’s oldest and one of the most active supporters’ clubs.
A pivotal moment in the Malta-United connection happened in 1967, when the British team embarked on their European campaign by facing off against local team Hibernians FC, in the first round. This encounter ultimately propelled Manchester United to clinch their inaugural European Cup victory.
The bond between the supporters’ club, the Maltese Islands, and Manchester United has strengthened over the years, evident in the frequent visits of players and officials from Old Trafford to Malta. Clearly, a sense of belonging has been fostered, and this sentiment extends to all who engage with this unique connection.
In a symbolic gesture of their enduring alliance, Malta’s Ministry for Tourism, VisitMalta, and Manchester United sealed a deal in 2019. This agreement positions Manchester United as a promoter of Malta as a prime tourist destination for its global fan base, with VisitMalta officially becoming the destination partner of Manchester United.
The VisitMalta brand now enjoys prominent visibility on the Club’s website, across its social and digital media channels, and even on advertisements at the iconic Old Trafford stadium.
Malta stands to gain
Carlo Micallef explained that 90 people are landing here today with the Manchester United Women’s team, and they will be staying in a hotel in St Julian’s. Another 60 will be joining on behalf of PSV Eindhoven. Apart from the professionals and their teams, there are many individuals who travel to attend football matches or immerse themselves in the culture and experience surrounding the sport.
In fact, football tourism contributes significantly to the local economy in terms of accommodation, transportation, and spending in local businesses such as restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. This means that hotels, restaurants, and bars experience increased demand, during a time when things normally calm down in the post-holiday lull.
There are also other benefits that various sectors in society stand to benefit from. In this game, a donation of €2 is being requested upon entrance, and all proceeds will go to Dar Bjorn, a home for ALS, MS, and neurological patients living in Malta.
Of course, major football events attract international media coverage, showcasing Malta as a destination to a global audience. This exposure can lead to increased tourism in the long term. Associations with popular football clubs or events can enhance Malta’s brand image, making it more attractive to potential tourists.
The MTA’s CEO also explained that football teams collaborate with brands in various ways to create mutually beneficial partnerships that extend beyond the confines of the pitch. In recent years, the MTA has been able to collaborate directly with these brands as well.
About the team
Manchester United Women’s Football Club, based in Leigh, Greater Manchester, England, competes in the Women’s Super League (WSL), the top tier of English women’s football. They gained promotion from the Championship at the end of the 2018-19 season.
The ban on women’s football at FA clubs was lifted in 1971. An unofficial team, United Ladies of Manchester, formed around 1970, trained at The Cliff, and played matches against other unofficial women’s teams. In the late 1970s, Manchester United Supporters Club Ladies operated as the club’s senior women’s team. They joined competitive leagues, winning the first three seasons of the Manchester & District League.
In 1989, the team sought support from Manchester United F.C. and they became Manchester United Ladies FC, supported by the club. In 2001, an official partnership was formed, but the team faced challenges and was disbanded in 2005. In March 2018, Manchester United announced plans to reintroduce a women’s team. The Women’s Football Club was founded on 28th May 2018, and joined the 2018–19 FA Women’s Championship.
The team secured promotion to the FA Women’s Super League in April 2019 and won the FA Women’s Championship title. In the 2019–20 season, their first in the Football Association Women’s Super League, they finished fourth after the season was shortened due to Covid-19.
The team reached the 2023 Women’s FA Cup final, losing to Chelsea. After finishing as runners-up in the Women’s Super League, they qualified for the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time in the 2023–24 season, but were eliminated by Paris Saint-Germain in the second qualifying round.