Demand has never been higher, especially in Europe, which is why the stadiums currently selected to host the Women̵7;s European Championships in England have raised eyebrows.
Critics argue that the English Football Association (FA) and UEFA, European football’s governing body, have not seized the moment.
Although the 10 host venues include giants such as Wembley Stadium and Old Trafford – which will host one match each – games will also be played at the 8,000-seat Leigh Sports Village Stadium and Rotherham’s 12,000-seat New York Stadium.
The smallest host stadium is Manchester City Academy Stadium, part of the English Premier League club’s state-of-the-art training complex with a capacity of just 4,700. Like Leigh Sports Village Stadium, which is in Greater Manchester, capacity is limited due to regulations prohibiting standing areas.
‘a little disappointed’
Belgium’s Group D match against Iceland on 10 July is the first of three matches to be played at Manchester City Academy Stadium, home of the Manchester City women’s team.
In April, Juventus and Iceland midfielder Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir told the ‘Late Pitch’ podcast that she was “a bit disappointed” at the stadium choice.
“It’s shocking. Playing in England, there are so many stadiums and we have a training ground across from City, which holds 4,000 spectators?” Gunnarsdottir said.
“It’s shameful. It’s not the respect we deserve. Look at women’s football today, they’re filling stadiums. You look at Barcelona and Madrid, 95,000 people are watching the game (at the Camp Nou). They’re not ready that we Will sell over 4,000 tickets.
“It’s disrespectful to women’s football because it’s a lot bigger than people think. You think women’s football is taking two steps forward, but then something like, It’s just one step back.”
Rachel O’Sullivan, women’s football expert and co-founder of media outlet Girlsthball, said the choice of two stadiums with less than 10,000 capacity for a major tournament was “a little too obvious”.
“If you’re looking at the evidence, it’s growing fast – and the 2019 World Cup has really shown us that. Many people were surprised by the number of people who wanted to take up football and get into football – and we have to.” Shouldn’t happen. We should expect it.”
Since England made its bid to host the 2022 Euros four years ago, the landscape in women’s football has changed significantly.
There has been a World Cup that has broken records for attendance and viewing figures – suggesting a new dawn for international women’s football – as well as a massive move to club games, especially in Europe.
However, when the initial Euro 2022 stadium selection process took place in 2019, the FA was struggling to find viable venues as clubs and councils were reluctant to put themselves forward, as FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said last month. was explained.
“The absolute truth is that we did a tender process in every major ground and city in the country and there were very few people who wanted to host the Women’s Euro,” Bullingham said in an interview to Zoom with reporters.
“We really had to persuade some clubs and cities to come forward, so we are really happy with where we have reached.
“We think we have some great venues, but if you thought people were knocking on our doors to host matches, it wasn’t.”
Since 2019, women’s football has grown in revenue, fans and spectators, pushing the sport into a different stratosphere.
As well as Wembley (89,000), Old Trafford (74,000), Leigh Sports Village and Manchester City Academy Stadium, other host venues are Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane (30,000), Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium (32,000), Brighton and Hove Albion’s Amex . Stadium (30,000), Milton Keynes Dons Stadium MK (30,000), Brentford Community Stadium (17,000) in Brentford and New York Stadium at Rotherham United.
Women’s football writer Richard Laverty said that if the selection process had been in place now, perhaps for the upcoming World Cup, it could be a completely different story.
“I think if they were doing it now, maybe, they would have chosen differently. I think the women’s game has become so big now, and I think they probably underestimated the demand, maybe travel. From supporters, from neutral supporters, from English supporters,” Laverty told CNN Sport.
Given the rapid development of the sport, O’Sullivan suggested that being ambitious was the only way forward.
“We should expect it to grow rather than be surprised every time, because if you look at the statistics and you look at the statistics you see over the years and every tournament, it only gets bigger and better every time. And that’s what we got.” Must be aiming for.”
The stadium’s locations for the tournament have also been criticized.
While the north-west and south of England – including London – have a slew of stadiums, none in the central or north-east are traditional hotbeds for sports.
Although the reluctance of councils and clubs restricted the FA’s options, O’Sullivan said it was a “real shame” that no one came forward in those areas, especially the Northeast, a region with such a rich football history.
But host stadiums still include four Premier League grounds, the country’s marquee venue – Wembley – recently the top-tier ground and two venues that host Women’s Super League matches, a criterion the FA wanted to incorporate.
And the sold-out final at Wembley is expected to become the largest attended Euro final in either men’s or women’s history, surpassing the current record of 79,115 set at the men’s European Championship in 1964.
“So did we get the balance right? We’ll look at it again, but you have a big stadium opening it, a big stadium closing it at Old Trafford and Wembley,” Campbell said.
“We think we have the right balance. We will eventually look at it thoroughly and investigate and that is where we are at the moment.”
Despite the tournament having two sub-10,000 stadiums, UEFA told CNN it expected it to be “the largest women’s European sporting event in history”.
According to a UEFA spokesperson, there are more than 700,000 tickets available across 31 matches. By the days before the start of the tournament, over 500,000 tickets had been sold, a record for the Women’s Euro.
With regard to the matches being held at the Manchester City Academy, UEFA and the FA stated that the stadium “will generate a great atmosphere worthy of a Women’s Euro”.
“We are confident that many matches will be sold out and look forward to doubling the total attendance of UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 in the Netherlands and delivering the best UEFA Women’s Euro ever,” UEFA told CNN in an email.
Small spaces on capacity provide at least a better TV spectacle than empty large arenas.
O’Sullivan and Laverty both made reference to games played in Nice at the 2019 World Cup, which had little participation.
Laverti thought that there was “certainly some short-sightedness” in the selection of the stadium, but with a stadium with a good product and capacity on the pitch, people would forget the arguments.
“I think once football starts and stadiums are full, people probably quickly forget about it because you focus on the product on the pitch, and I think it’s the best of all time.” The best women would be Euros.”