Euro 2022 organizers hit back at charges of lack of ambition for women's game

Euro 2022 organizers have hit back at suggestions of a lack of ambition for the women's game over their selection of some small venues for July's tournament in England.

English Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham even admitted that clubs had to be persuaded into hosting matches.

The Euro will begin and end in front of sell-out crowds at iconic stadiums in Old Trafford and Wembley, respectively.

However, Manchester City's Academy Stadium and Leigh Sports Village will host games with capacities of under 10,000.

Brighton, Brentford, Milton Keynes, Rotherham, Sheffield and Southampton will also host matches.

Iceland midfielder Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir criticized some venue choices -- calling the use of the Academy Stadium, which will have a capacity of 4,700, "embarrassing" and "disrespectful".

However, the FA's director of women's football Sue Campbell said there was a balance to strike with still 275,000 tickets left on sale.

Ticket sales have hit 450,000 and are expected to surpass half a million in what will be the best attended women's European Championship ever.

"You've got a big stadium opening it, you've got a big stadium closing it off at Old Trafford and Wembley," Campbell told reporters on Tuesday. "We think we've got the balance about right."

All of England's three group games against Austria, Norway and Northern Ireland have sold out, as well as the final on July 31.

Head of tournament delivery Chris Bryant defended the decision not to play all of England's games at Wembley, like the men's team enjoyed for all their games on home soil at last year's Euro 2020.

However, he did accept that demand for women's sport has increased dramatically since the venues were selected as part of the winning bid in 2018.

"I think we can all be aware the interest in hosting women's sporting events probably wasn't what it is today," said Bryant. "We knew we needed to sell out matches and we really want the idea of matches being sold out to be a good thing as that's what it is, it's an achievement and we're really proud of that. That then shifts demand for people who can't get to an England game to go to other matches where we need the atmosphere and the attendance to support the tournament."

Bullingham said clubs had to be cajoled into hosting the tournament when the tender process began.

"The absolute truth of it is we did a tender process throughout every major ground and city in the country and there were very few that came forward in wanting to host the women’s Euros," he said. "We actually had to persuade a few clubs and cities to come forward so we are very happy with where we got to. We think we have got some brilliant venues. If you think people were knocking our door down to host matches that was not the case."

England open the tournament on July 6 against Austria.


@ Agence France-Presse

9 comments about "Euro 2022 organizers hit back at charges of lack of ambition for women's game".
  1. Ben Myers, June 22, 2022 at 10:27 a.m.

    Why not other large venues?  To play in a stadium seating only 4700 is an embarrassment and disrespectful.  Loss of revenue, too.

  2. Wayne Norris replied, June 22, 2022 at 10:39 a.m.

    Ben, seems like everything goes immediately to "distrespectful" but there is much more that goes into these decisions some which are covered in this article.

    -Few clubs wanted to host at all
    -4,700 vs 7,000 in 50k stadium...??

    if they have 450,000 tickets sold and 1st and last game are appx 120k then you have 330k over how many other games?

    While some aspects of decisions could have been better generally it seems well thought out.

    Also good to see one of the decision makers is female.....

  3. frank schoon, June 22, 2022 at 12:29 p.m.

    I wish we had more info about Women soccer in line of what people think about women soccer in Europe in general, what are the negatives, why was it tough to get any cooperation from clubs, what do they think of women soccer. None of this is talked about in this article or in any other articles. I wish some soccer journalits would spend some inordinate time writing about what women soccer really face in their growth.... 

    There is a qualitative difference between men and women's soccer and that is something that needs to be also talked about. As one former Ajax player, after having watched the Dutch National Women's team play, stated that women soccer is comparable that of men's amateur ball 5th division....The European male fans are used to seeing good ,high quality soccer which is not seen in the women's game, so why would they spend money watching this type of game. Also the men's game is already charging high prices. I don't watch women's soccer, unless the USWNT plays a good competitor which is not often case....

    We have to realize that women soccer would do better filling a small stadium at first and years down the road perhaps the situation will improve. I remember often in the NASL the small crowds in the DC stadium for men soccer, or in other towns except for NY Cosmos...It is what it is and I think women soccer needs to look at the situation realistically...

  4. uffe gustafsson, June 22, 2022 at 6 p.m.

    USA have had a big advantage for many years because of college soccer and the implementation of title 9.
    that gave womens soccer a chance to grow big.
    that is not what you see in other countries.
    after youth club soccer the women have no more choices to play. A few countries like Sweden Germany have proffetional leagues. England came on the bandwagon very late.when the big clubs started to bring on womens teams you suddenly saw huge improvement look at Spain not a very long time ago Spain was not a contender in national tornaments but in a short time they are now a real contender.
    when clubs like Lyon and psg decided to spend money they now are clubs to beat. When English clubs get serious of fielding womens team you will see an explosion of interest in womens soccer. And they will fill the stadium's for euros.
    my wish is for MLS clubs to take the step to field womens teams and help the womens league to really grow.
    one of the reason I like womens soccer is it's clean and very little drama and ugly fouls and the ever diving like you been hit by a truck.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, June 22, 2022 at 8:45 p.m.

    Uffe that is certainly a common view, but in my experience woman in the senior competitive game play just as hard, just as determined, and just as nasty as the typical male professional player. Their payback is not as obvious to a fan as in the mens game. There is always payback, but it typically comes from a teammate and after time has passed. The payback may not come in the same match even. Makes it really tough for the referee to follow. Also the college comments are common, but ignore the fact that foreign students get the same advantages as the US students. So every women play college in the US benefits. It is not an exclusive advantage to US players.

    Just like MLS is not an exclusive league for US citizens only and its youth academies are exclusive for US citizens either.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, June 22, 2022 at 8:47 p.m.

    I wish there wasn't an auto correct feature or that there was editing. Auto correct made a mess of that comment.

  7. R2 Dad, June 23, 2022 at 5:58 a.m.

    Not mentioned here is the media component that drives international viewership. The men's Euros is a money-printing machine that benefits from big media packaging and big matchday revenue. Until media demand (and sponsorship $) catches up, the womens euros will have to make due with smaller venues in small cities. Selling out stadia looks better for the media package the next go around, vs half-empty stadia. Building the sport doesn't happen overnight. Lastly, UEFA better get the officiating/VAR component right or they will turn off more viewers. Imagine expecting Euro referee performance and getting NWSL LA/Seattle results.

  8. Sean Guillory, June 24, 2022 at 9:19 p.m.

    Frank is right about Women's soccer except its well below 5th division.  My wife who played D-1 for University of Florida does not follow it and thinks its boring and below the men's game.  I have met a number of women who feel the same way.  Until they get women to really buy into you can forget it ever getting big.

  9. R2 Dad replied, June 25, 2022 at 3:09 p.m.

    Regardless of how high or low the level of play in the women's game, I really miss the match day routine we had with the Deltas in NASL. I give NWSL grief but would sign up for season tickets if we got another club in SF. Nothing like attending a live match in person.

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