Stars align behind new UEFA Women's Champions League format

Top female players have given their backing to the new look for the competition, which will kick off in 2021.

Lucy Bronze was a Women's Champions League winner with Lyon in 2018/19
Lucy Bronze was a Women's Champions League winner with Lyon in 2018/19 ©Getty Images

The announcement that the UEFA Women's Champions League will adopt a new format from the 2021/22 season, featuring a group stage and centralised marketing, has been met with widespread approval.

We spoke to two of the female game's elite performers, Wolfsburg striker Ewa Pajor, and the current UEFA Women's Player of the Year, Lyon right-back Lucy Bronze, to understand how the players feel about the changes.

How appealing is the new format for players?

Lucy Bronze: It's what the players have wanted for a long time. It's what the teams have wanted and it's the best thing for women's football now – to get more of the top teams playing and having more top games with these top teams playing against each other more consistently. It's going to be really good and similar to what the men’s Champions League is like.

Ewa Pajor: The new format shows that women's football has made another step forward. The best leagues will each enter three teams and I am personally very glad about this new format.

There will be more top teams from the top-ranked nations, with teams guaranteed six matches if they reach the group stage: what difference will that make?

Ewa Pajor reached the 2018 final with Wolfsburg
Ewa Pajor reached the 2018 final with Wolfsburg©Getty Images

Pajor: This is a great idea which will move the competition to another, higher level. Rivalry between the biggest teams in Europe in the group stage will let us make another step forward. For us players, it is a great joy to play more games in this unique competition.

Bronze: It's important that the top-ranked nations will have three of their top teams in. They all have teams who can compete in the Champions League against each other. In England, you have Chelsea who finished third in the domestic league last year but missed out on the Champions League, even though they made the semi-finals. It's important to include the lower-ranked nations as well; they need the exposure and it's an important balance between getting the top teams playing and making sure we don't leave anybody behind, because we want to grow women's football together.

To bring more media attention, in the first season of the new format, eight matchdays will be set aside solely for the UEFA Women's Champions League, with no other significant UEFA competition games on those nights. Will that help?

Bronze: Definitely. I like to watch games and I sometimes struggle to find them online. It's important now we have this platform where people can watch women's football because it's the only way it will get media attention, sponsors and everything that goes with it. If it's more accessible, it's the best way forward because people want to watch the best games.

Pajor: This is a great move from UEFA. Such ideas will help to bring more fans and will provide amazing publicity for women football.

Women's football continues to develop at incredible speed – it must be exciting to be a part of it?

Women's Player of the Year: Lucy Bronze
Women's Player of the Year: Lucy Bronze

Pajor: It is unbelievable, I am playing in one of the best teams in the world. Wolfsburg have been a fixture in this competition for a long time – when I joined them they had already won the Champions League trophy. The competition is growing every year and that is why I am very happy and excited that I can be part of all of this.

Bronze: I always say it's exciting to be part of it but for me, I started when women's football was at one of its lowest points, so seeing where it is going is amazing. The way we change the Champions League will have a huge effect: you can see already leagues are changing and improving. The World Cup is the same and the UEFA Women's EURO will be the same when we play in England in 2021. The future is looking really good and it's nice to know we have the backing of so many different associations now to make the game great and to be where it should be.