Speaking at the draws, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said the UEFA Women's Champions League has contributed to the massive upsurge in interest in the women's game.
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The popularity of women's football continues to blossom, with the UEFA Women's Champions League at the forefront of the massive upsurge in interest in the women's game.
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, addressing the draw ceremony for the rounds of 32 and 16 at the House of European Football in Nyon on Thursday, highlighted the record attendance and excellent television viewing figures for last season's final of the competition as a clear sign of the flourishing attraction of the female game.
"The 2012 final between Olympique Lyonnais and 1. FFC Frankfurt was a great showcase for the competition," he said, "setting not only a competition record but also a modern-day women's club football record with 50,212 present at Munich's grand Olympiastadion. In addition to the fans in the stadium, more than three and a half million TV viewers from around the globe tuned in to see Olympique Lyonnais retain the UEFA Women's Champions League crown.
"Women's football is growing at an exponential rate," Mr Infantino continued, "as shown by the record-breaking crowds and TV viewers for the FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany last year and the women's Olympic football tournament at London 2012 earlier this month. We must capitalise on this interest in the women's game, not least by continuing to play attractive and fair play football."
Forty-six associations entered 54 clubs for this season's competition, and London will host the final of the 2012/13 UEFA Women's Champions League on 23 May next year at a venue to be confirmed. "Today's draws kick off the knockout stages of the fourth season of the UEFA Women's Champions League, which will give clubs a chance to experience new countries and new cities, new football cultures and new stadiums," said Mr Infantino.
Key decisions by UEFA have contributed to the impressive growth of women's football in Europe in particular. On the club football front, the UEFA Women's Champions League was launched in 2009/10. A European women's club competition was first introduced in 2001/02, following approval by the UEFA Executive Committee in May 2000.
The inaugural UEFA European Competition for Representative Women's Teams was created in the early 1980s, and this national team competition was eventually given European Championship status, with the EURO final round providing a window every four years on the technical and tactical advances in the women's game.
As for women's football in general, the UEFA women's football development programme (WFDP) has emerged. At its meeting in Prague in December 2010, the UEFA Executive Committee noted the great strides made by the female game on this continent, in both registered players and participation. It agreed to support the development programme over the period until 2016 via UEFA's HatTrick assistance scheme on behalf of the 53 UEFA member national associations.
Former Germany favourite Steffi Jones is ambassador for the UEFA WFDP. In this newly created post, Jones is working closely with UEFA to nurture women's football across the continent.