How UEFA Women's EURO 2021 will help develop female football

With fewer than 500 days to go until UEFA Women's EURO 2021, we explain how it fits into UEFA's strategy for strengthening the female game.

How UEFA Women's EURO 2021 will help develop female football
How UEFA Women's EURO 2021 will help develop female football ©

UEFA Women's EURO 2021 begins fewer than 500 days from now in England, with a record 700,000 tickets available across the host country.

There will also be extensive coverage of every game on free-to-air television, radio and online – ensuring anyone can tune into the tournament – as 15 other nations join England to compete for the trophy. With the final on 1 August 2021 taking place at Wembley Stadium, England's national arena is set to host back-to-back men's and women's UEFA EURO finals, in 2020 and 2021 respectfully. 

How will UEFA Women's EURO 2021 build on the female game's popularity? We explain.

The finals will open at Old Trafford
The finals will open at Old Trafford©FA

How does UEFA Women's EURO 2021 fit into UEFA's overall approach to strengthening the female game?

In 2019, UEFA launched its first dedicated women's football strategy, setting out a clear five-year plan to develop women's football and increase participation across Europe. One of the strategy's key targets is to double the reach and value of both the UEFA Women's EURO and UEFA Women's Champions League competitions.

UEFA's decision to maximise exposure of Women's EURO 2021 through free-to-air media coverage is one of several tactics designed to achieve this overall goal. Another is the new format for the UEFA Women's Champions League, which UEFA announced in late 2019. From the 2021/22 season, the competition will feature a 16-team group stage as well as centralised marketing and TV coverage.

The change will lead to a 20% increase in the number of UEFA Women's Champions League matches. Switching to a group format (the competition is currently a knockout from the round of 32 onward) will also encourage more competitive games and increased visibility for women's elite club football.

What is UEFA doing outside of its elite tournaments to strengthen women's football at grassroots level?

UEFA's Together #WePlayStrong campaign was launched in 2017 to drive another key component of our women's football strategy: to double female participation across Europe to 2.5 million players and, in doing so, transform both standards and perceptions of women's football. The campaign has successfully attracted teenage girls to football by highlighting the physical, personal and social benefits of playing the sport and belonging to a team.

Our new partnership with Disney will build on this approach through Playmakers – a ground-breaking football programme that uses Disney's world-renowned storytelling skills to encourage more young girls to exercise regularly and, hopefully, kickstart a lifelong love of football.

How can storytelling attract more girls to play football?

©Getty Images

Playmakers is based on UEFA-funded academic research that proves the positive role of storytelling in helping children take up sport. Unlike traditional football programmes, each of Playmakers' ten initial training sessions follow the narrative of Disney and Pixar's billion-dollar global box office smash hit Incredibles 2. Equipped with footballs, bibs and cones, trained coaches encourage participants to play the roles of popular characters, such as Elastigirl, Violet, Mr Incredible and Dash, bringing the film's action scenes to life through movement, teamwork and their imagination.

Targeting girls aged five to eight not currently playing football, seven UEFA national associations – Austria, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Romania, Scotland and Serbia – will roll out Playmakers through schools, clubs and local communities. More associations are expected to introduce the programme later in the year. Currently, only 16% of girls meet the World Health Organization's minimum standards for physical activity (see WHO report). We hope Playmakers can change that figure.

How will UEFA encourage its 55 national association members to support its strategy by investing more in women's football?

UEFA has increased its level of funding for women's football development by 50%. From 2020, each of its 55 member associations will receive an annual incentive payment of €150,000 earmarked for women's football.