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How UEFA competitions strengthen women's football on and off the pitch

From the UEFA Women's EURO and UEFA Women's Champions League to the UEFA Women's Futsal EURO and youth tournaments, UEFA ensures all of its women's competitions play to the long-term goal of building a sustainable future for the wider, female game.

The Netherlands celebrate their UEFA Women's EURO 2017 triumph
The Netherlands celebrate their UEFA Women's EURO 2017 triumph ©Sportsfile

UEFA Women's EURO 2021

As part of its five-year strategy to develop women's football and increase participation across Europe, UEFA aims to double the reach and value of its competitions, including the UEFA European Women's Championship. 

©FA

Last month, UEFA and the English Football Association announced that the opening fixture of UEFA Women's EURO 2021 in England will take place at Old Trafford. With a stadium capacity of 74,000 and featuring the host side, the match may break the attendance record for the women's European Championship.

In total, UEFA is offering close to 800,000 tickets to watch the 16-team, 31-game tournament – a huge increase on the 2017 edition held in the Netherlands (480,000). In addition to the home of Manchester United, nine other venues will stage UEFA Women's EURO 2021 matches, with the final set for 1 August at Wembley. "To kick off at the Theatre of Dreams in Manchester, and to have the final at the iconic Wembley Stadium shows just how far the game has come. This is what women's football deserves," said Nadine Kessler, UEFA's head of women's football.

To maximise exposure of competition, UEFA has also ensured free-to-air television, radio and online coverage. All knockout stage matches are scheduled for prime-time TV slots.

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

UEFA Women's EURO referees

©Getty Images

More than one year out from UEFA Women's EURO 2021, UEFA is already ensuring that female assistant referees hoping to run the line can benefit from experienced colleagues who have officiated at international tournaments.

As part of this process, in November 2019, European football's governing body invited 38 candidates to the first ever FIFA women's assistant referee course at its Nyon headquarters in Switzerland.

Participants were also given a thorough insight into the video assistant referee (VAR) system supporting the referee's decision-making process, which has gradually been introduced into various UEFA competitions.

Female assistant referees take first steps on road to Women's EURO

UEFA Women's Futsal EURO finals

©Sportsfile

Last year, UEFA expanded the scope of its competitions for women's national teams to the increasingly popular futsal. The inaugural UEFA Women's Futsal EURO finals took place at Gondomar in Portugal, with Spain defeating the hosts 4-0 in the final. 

Some 23 national teams entered the competition's qualifying rounds which started in 2018. That number is expected to increase for the 2020/21 tournament.

UEFA Women's Champions League

2019 final highlights: Lyon 4-1 Barcelona
2019 final highlights: Lyon 4-1 Barcelona

From the 2021/22 season, the UEFA Women's Champions League will switch format to encourage more competitive games and increased visibility for women's elite club football.

The new format will increase the number of matches by 20%, with the current knockout round of 16 replaced by a group stage, and four groups of four teams playing each other home and away. The top two in each group progress to the quarter-finals.

Media rights will be centralised from the group stage onwards, with UEFA producing every game for television broadcast or online streaming. Eight matchdays in 2021/22 will be scheduled to avoid clashing with other major football competitions – an unprecedented move designed to expand the reach of women's football.

The new format was developed by UEFA in close collaboration with the clubs and the European Club Association and sets a new benchmark for an international women's club football competition.

New Women's Champions League format: how it will work

UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship

©Sportsfile

In 2019, Bulgaria staged the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship. UEFA helped the national association to capitalise on the competition's visibility to kickstart the development of women's football across the country.

As part of UEFA's support, former midfielder and the current Finland women's national team coach Anna Signeul ran a technical workshop during the tournament to share best practices with upcoming women's coaches in Bulgaria.

Signeul is also a participant in a Europe-wide UEFA coach mentor programme piloted in 2018/19. This aims to support the development of active high-level female coaches by giving advice on the day-to-day challenges of their coaching life. It also supports UEFA A diploma coaches enrolled on the UEFA Pro diploma course.

International development tournaments

UEFA is likewise giving girls their first experience of multinational football competition through its international development tournaments.

Supported through UEFA's Assist programme, which works closely with national associations across Europe and sister confederations around the globe, these tournaments allow youth players – boys and girls – to experience new cultures and continents.

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