At its meeting in Paris on 23 May 2000, the UEFA Executive Committee approved the proposal to introduce a European Women's club competition, and thus the UEFA Women's Cup came into being.
Article top media content
At its meeting in Paris on 23 May 2000, the UEFA Executive Committee approved the proposal to introduce a European Women's club competition, and thus the UEFA Women's Cup came into being. For its ninth season in 2009/10 it was relaunched as the UEFA Women's Champions League as per a decision in December 2008.
The first competition was held in 2001/02, 33 teams setting out on the road to the final. That was contested by Umeå of Sweden and FFC Frankfurt, who staged the final at the Waldstadion final on 23 May 2002. Frankfurt carried off the first UEFA Women's Cup with a 2-0 triumph.
By 2002/03, 35 clubs were entering, but in the semi-finals Umeå had their revenge on Frankfurt winning a penalty shoot-out 7-6 in Germany after both legs finished 1-1. They went on to win the new two-legged final, beating Fortuna Hjørring of Denmark 4-1 at home and 3-0 in the return.
Forty teams played in the 2003/04 edition, and again it came down to a contest between Umeå and Frankfurt. It was Umeå, bolstered by the signing of Marta, who prevailed in the final for the second year running, winning the opening leg 3-0 – the first time Frankfurt had lost over 90 minutes in the competition's history – and romping to a 5-0 victory in Germany.
Forty-three sides competed in the 2004/05 edition, with a German club successful for the second time. However it was Turbine Potsdam not their rivals from Frankfurt who triumphed after a 5-1 aggregate success over Swedish champions Djurgården/Älvsjö in the final.
In 2005/06 Potsdam again made the final – following a victory against Djurgården/Älvsjö – but it was Frankfurt who were to keep the trophy in Germany, after winning the first leg 4-0 away before gaining a 3-2 home victory. Steffi Jones and Birgit Prinz scored in the second leg, just as in the inaugural final.
The unthinkable happened in the 2006/07 semi-finals – both German sides went out, Frankfurt losing to Kolbotn and Brøndby defeating Potsdam. However, Arsenal and Umeå were to make the final and the Gunners won the first leg of the final 1-0 in Sweden and held on 0-0 in the return to lift the trophy.
For 2007/08, 45 clubs were involved, but there were familiar finalists: Umeå and Frankfurt. Marta scored for Umeå after 12 seconds in their home first leg but Conny Pohlers, a victor with Potsdam in 2005, swiftly equalised for a 1-1 draw. A week later a 27,640 crowd gathered at the former Waldstadion and were delighted as Pohlers struck early in each half on Frankfurt's way to a 3-2 win, a 4-3 aggregate success and the honour of being the first three-time champions.
The last season before the UEFA Women's Cup became the UEFA Women's Champions League was 2008/09 and the theme of newness started early as two debutants reached the final, Duisburg and Russia's Zvezda-2005. Duisburg who kept the trophy in Germany as they defeated Zvezda 6-0 in Kazan before a 1-1 home draw at the MSV Arena, with the 28,112 crowd beating the record set by Frankfurt a year before.
Runners-up from the eight highest-ranked association were among the 53 contenders in the first UEFA Women's Champions League of 2009/10 but two teams who held national titles made the new-style one-off final in Getafe, Potsdam and Olympique Lyonnais. The game ended goalless after 120 minutes but the penalty shoot-out proved an epic, both teams having nine kicks before Potsdam won 7-6.
Fortunes were reversed in 2010/11, though when the same two teams made it to the final at Craven Cottage in London. Wendie Renard and substitute Lara Dickenmann scored as Lyon beat Potsdam 2-0 for France's first title.
There was a repeat in 2011/12, Lyon having knocked out Potsdam in the semi-finals then beat Frankfurt 2-0 with a Eugénie Le Sommer penalty and Camille Abily volley in front of another best attendance set in Germany, 50,212 at Munich's Olympiastadion.
Lyon made a fourth straight final in 2012/13, but their hat-trick bid was dashed when Wolfsburg beat them 1-0 at London's Stamford Bridge through a 73rd-minute Martina Müller penalty. Like Frankfurt in 2002, Potsdam in 2005 and Duisburg in 2009, it was Wolfsburg's debut in Europe.
Wolfsburg again reached the 2013/14 final in Lisbon, this time as holders playing debutants Tyresö. Tyresö led 2-0 at half-time and later 3-2 but Wolfsburg prevailed 4-3, Müller again getting the winner.
The title went back to Frankfurt in 2014/15. Paris Saint-Germain made a first final after knocking out Lyon and Wolfsburg, but fell 2-1 in Berlin to an added-time Mandy Islacker winner.
Lyon's wait for a third trophy was ended in 2015/16, as although Wolfsburg equalised in the 88th minute in Reggio Emilia, OL won 4-3 on penalties.
Twelve months on in 2016/17, Lyon equalled Frankfurt's tally of four titles, also by beating Paris. They needed penalties once again, 7-6 after a 0-0 draw with goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi converting the winner.
Lyon made it three wins in a row in 2017/18 after an extraordinary final: it was 0-0 after 90 minutes in Kyiv against Wolfsburg who then took the lead, had a player sent off and ended up losing 4-1. Lyon's five wins overall and three in a row were records, as was Ada Hegerberg's 15 goals in the season.
It was another Lyon triumph in 2018/19 as they faced first Spanish finalists Barcelona in Budapest, the decider now moved to its own city away from the men's showpiece. By half-time Lyon were four up, including a Hegerberg hat-trick, though before the end Asisat Oshoala became the first African to score in a final, pulling it back to 4-1.
In 2019/20, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the quarter-finals onwards were played as one-off matches in Bilbao and San Sebastián in August. Lyon still won again, though, meeting Wolfsburg for the fourth time in a final and triumphing 3-1 at the Anoeta. Bouhaddi and Renard were playing in their ninth finals for Lyon; both along with Le Sommer made it seven titles with the club, while Saki Kumagai became the Asian goalscorer in a final.
The pandemic also meant qualifying in 2020/21 was played on a single-leg basis and most games, including the Gothenburg final, were behind closed doors. Lyon's reign was ended by Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals and the new champions were Barcelona, who in a reversal of 2019 were four up at the break against first-time finalists Chelsea, and won 4-0.
For 2021/22 the competition was to undergo a radical reformatting, both in terms of financial rewards and television coverage for the clubs, and the tournament itself, now to include a 16-team group stage.