UEFA professional football director Giorgio Marchetti revealed in Oslo that the governing body will launch a tender to find a host for the 2009 UEFA European Women's Championship later this year.
Speaking at the 5th UEFA Women's Football Conference in the Norwegian capital, Marchetti said: "We expect a decision to be taken by the Executive Committee in 2006 so we will be inviting associations to bid for it. Hosting the tournament provides many benefits for a region as a whole as well as providing a platform for the promotion of women's football."
WOMEN'S EURO used to fall into UEFA's development division, but a "courageous decision" was taken to move it into professional football, alongside the likes of the UEFA Champions League, earlier this year. Marchetti identified three reasons for doing so: "To reap the benefits of growth; to give the top tier of the women's game the possibility to become élite; and to exploit its potential."
Marchetti had the figures to back this up, pointing out how the number of registered female players in UEFA's 52 associations had risen from 251,218 in 1985 to 1,520,269 this year - a growth of 505 per cent in two decades. However, he acknowledged that "there is still work to be done" with only 37 associations entering the qualifying stages of WOMEN'S EURO.
The move into the professional football sector was, according to Marchetti, "not necessarily a promotion, but rather a change of approach". He continued: "
You could see the benefits at WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ where there was a tournament branding programme. An image was created and that's fundamental to creating awareness. This sophisticated marketing shows UEFA's commitment to developing such tournaments."
Message sent out
UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh said of the move: "We were concerned that the top women's competitions were being classed as developing alongside youth tournaments and we didn't feel that would enable them to be lifted to the top level. We wanted to send out a message and by moving it we did. This makes waves and stimulates promotion in clubs and national associations."
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