In February 2022, the world met the Arnold Clark Cup. The round-robin style invitational football tournament was hosted in England and featured four international powerhouses: England, Canada, Germany, and Spain.
Fans in the stands and spectators around the world were treated to a fun, entertaining tournament that saw bangers goals, top-tier goalkeeping, and most famously, English defender Mille Bright winning the Golden Boot — tied with Ballon d’Or Winner Alexia Putellas because so is the way of the Arnold Clark Cup. The host nation England came away with the championship, and fans now had another friendly tournament to look forward to during an international break.
Now, Pitch International is gearing up for the 2023 Arnold Clark Cup. The tournament will run from February 16th to 22nd this time featuring Belgium, Italy, and South Korea alongside hosts England. According to Cat Watson, Director of Women’s Sport at Pitch International, the Arnold Clark Cup is just getting started.
It starts with an idea
Since 2016, England had typically competed in the SheBelieves Cup during the late February/Early March FIFA break. The SheBelieves Cup, held in various states around the U.S., required extensive travel for the Lionesses. So in the lead-up to 2022, an idea was born: what if England hosted their own tournament? And so, the Arnold Clark Cup was born.
“We helped build the tournament concept,” Watson told AllForXI, explaining the relationship between Pitch International and the Arnold Clark Cup. “We own the rights and operate everything from picking the teams, handling sponsorships, and distributing media rights as well as on-site logistics.”
It’s Watson’s hope that the Arnold Clark Cup become as much of a mainstay as other tournaments held during that international break. “If that FIFA window remains, we’d love to keep this as a permanent fixture in the calendar,” she said.
Fans have delighted in the return of the Arnold Clark Cup. As AllForXI previously reported, the tournament provided a number of memorable moments. Although the games were low scoring, watching top teams experiment with different tactics, rotate players, and compete to win provided a wonderful experience for fans in attendance and those watching from abroad.
Building off success
Early 2022 presented unique challenges to all sports, and the Arnold Clark Cup was no different. COVID-19 restrictions in England made it difficult to attract fans to the stadiums, especially for games where the host nation did not play. This year, Watson explained that implementing double-headers, which were previously not allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions, should attract even more fans who can buy a single ticket to see two back-to-back games. To date, over 30,000 tickets have been sold.
“Our plan is to sell out all three venues,” Watson said. “[Sales] are tracking a lot better than last year. We’re already established, people know what it is, and obviously we have the Lionesses’ success at the EUROs as a huge factor.”
In fact, ever since the English national team’s dominant display at the European Championship this past summer, getting a seat at a game has become a hot ticket item. This past October, the Lionesses played the USWNT in front of a sold-out Wembley Stadium and defeated the Americans 2-1. Watson hopes that this momentum will contribute to a successful second iteration of the Arnold Clark Cup.
You don’t need to travel to England this winter to watch all the Arnold Clark Cup action. For the second year in a row, the games will stream on Paramount+ here in the United States. “CBS is a great partner for us,” Watson said. “They are very serious about how they market and promote women’s football on their channel, which is important to us. As a broadcasting partner, they are fully invested.”
The phenomenon of Arnold Clark
As the Arnold Clark Cup rolled on in 2022, fans watching in North America had a question. Who is Arnold Clark? Was he a famed English footballer? A notable historical figure? Unfamiliar with the nationwide chain of motor dealerships in the United Kingdom founded by Scottish businessman Arnold Clark who passed away in 2017, fans took to social media to try and figure it out.
arnold clark died (?) for millie bright to be joint top scorer at a football tournament one day— ashna (@ashnaguliani) February 23, 2022
Thus, an unconventional brand was born.
“We love it!” Watson laughed. “What is really special about the women’s football community is that they have a good sense of humor and they’re really engaged. We’re really lucky to have that engaged fan base in women’s football and have it translate over to the Arnold Clark Cup, even if fans on the other side of the pond had no idea who Arnold Clark was!”
Fans in North America were happy to share in the humor and spoke with AllForXI about their favorite moments. “I loved the period of time where England put Millie Bright up top, she scored, and then became joint Golden Boot winner,” said one fan, who watched the games from California. “The jokes on Twitter were so funny and I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.”
“It was really funny to watch the internet give a friendly tournament that kind of brand,” said another fan who watched the games from the greater Toronto area. “I can’t wait for next year!”
Arnold Clark died so women’s football could live https://t.co/6ZMqi4DC1D— Flo Lloyd-Hughes (@FloydTweet) June 16, 2022
All jokes aside, Arnold Clark as a company is committed to growing the women’s game, and Watson is happy to have them on board. “They’ve invested in the women’s game and helped create a new event that has captured fans’ imaginations and is helping to grow the profile of the women’s game.” Watson said. “The fact that the fans are fully on board and loving the tournament has matched up with what the company is doing in investing in and supporting the game.”
All eyes on 2023
As England gears up to host Belgium, Italy, and South Korea, Watson acknowledged the uniqueness of planning this year’s tournament in light of its leadup to the 2023 World Cup and the importance of competitive games during international breaks this year. “We wanted to have different teams from last year and mix it up,” she explained.
Watson believes that each of the three visiting teams are outperforming their respective FIFA rankings, and she’s looking forward to seeing how they stack up in the Arnold Clark Cup. “Belgium has something to prove, Italy did well in the Euros, and Korea just had a successful run in the Asian Cup,” she said. “They’re all in strong form!”
Fans have to wait two more months to catch all the Arnold Clark Cup action, but that hasn’t stopped the excitement bubbling up online about the tournament’s return. Watson relishes the jokes on social media. “We love that, keep it coming,” she said. “The more of that the better, it’s all good fun.”
All roads lead back to… us? https://t.co/nVMeYK6ujt— Arnold Clark Cup (@ArnoldClarkCup) October 7, 2022
For more information on the Arnold Clark Cup, including where to watch, click here.