The 9th UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championship was the biggest yet with a field of 47 nations, so it was appropriate that it should conclude with an eight-team final tournament – the third in the competition’s history – that broke several records on and off the pitch.
The qualification stage, comprising an autumn qualifying round and a spring elite round, whittled down the initial cast of 44 countries – who were joined mid-term by seeds Germany and France – to a final-round line-up of eight, including hosts Belarus.
The Football Federation of Belarus (BFF), tasked with staging its second final tournament after the successful Women's Under-19 event of 2009, accommodated the eight squads and their delegations, UEFA organisational staff and the local organising committee, as well as the refereeing operation, at three sites in the Belarusian capital.
Minsk, in the form of its Traktor Stadium, also served as one of the five venues for the finals action, together with the Torpedo Stadium in Zhodino, the City Stadium in Slutsk, and Borisov's Gorodskoi Stadium and Borisov-Arena.
A 90-minute drive from Minsk, Borisov had the honour of holding the 16 May final at its 13,121-capacity Arena. Meanwhile, the third-place play-off at the Traktor Stadium decided which of the two losing teams from the Zhodino semi-finals would qualify, alongside the two finalists, for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan later in the year.
From the moment the two groups of four kicked off on 4 May, it was clear the attendances would be healthy. Perhaps encouraged by mild weather and mostly late-afternoon start times, the young enthusiastic crowds that congregated for each of the 16 games amounted to an unprecedented aggregate attendance of 44,653 (more than doubling the previous record). That figure included the competition-record 10,200 crowd for the final itself, as a single-match WU17 attendance record was set three times during the two weeks.
What’s more, spectators were treated to a championship-high 58 finals goals, with 12 scored in just one group-stage game to set a record winning margin for a UEFA tournament of any description.
If local schoolchildren were a key part of the equation, local schools also welcomed five of the eight competing squads, whose non-playing agenda further entailed anti-doping and match-fixing prevention education. These UEFA-led sessions, geared towards players experiencing a first major championship, took place at the impressive BFF headquarters. The Belarusian federation also supplied one of the four training facilities used, all of which were located in Minsk.
While Germany were involved in their eighth finals and Spain their seventh – with England, Norway and Italy also relative WU17 EURO ‘veterans’ – one particularly noteworthy statistic was that 20 countries have now taken part in this tournament, following the debuts here of Belarus, Czech Republic and Serbia.
Moreover, in qualifying, Andorra had made their first appearance in any junior UEFA women’s national-team competition. There were developmental opportunities too for the 16-strong team of match officials, constituting six referees, two local fourth officials and eight assistant referees – only three of whom had had a previous final-round assignment.
UEFA’s technical team on site was made up by Hesterine de Reus (Netherlands) and Béatrice von Siebenthal (Switzerland). Their observations form the basis of this technical report which, besides serving as a permanent record of the event, seeks to offer useful information to coaches operating at player development levels – with attention already turning to the 2016/17 showpiece in Czech Republic.