UEFA hope for record women's Euro 2022 after 12-month delay

Staff Reporter 2021-10-27, 11:27pm Football

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MANCHESTER, United Kingdom - A year later than planned, the countdown to the women's European Championship begins on
Thursday when the draw for Euro 2022 takes place in Manchester.

  England will play host to the tournament from July 6-31, which hopes to
smash attendance records for women's football with Manchester United's Old
Trafford the setting for the opening game before a Wembley final.

  The hosts are hoping home advantage will help them win a major women's international tournament for the first time.

  The Lionesses have fallen at the semi-final stage in each of the last two
World Cups and Euro 2017.

  England are guaranteed to kick the tournament off at Old Trafford with
organisers hoping for an attendance that will break the 41,300 record for a
women's European Championship match.

  Holders the Netherlands, France and Germany are the other top seeds and
contenders for the tournament, along with Olympic silver medallists Sweden
and a rapidly improving Spain side filled with Champions League winners who
play their club football for Barcelona.

  Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Northern Ireland,
Norway, Russia and Switzerland are the other qualifiers for a tournament UEFA
hopes to be the biggest European women's sports event ever in terms of
attendance.

  Premier League stadiums in Brentford, Brighton and Southampton will play
host to games, along with more modest venues in Leigh, Manchester, Milton
Keynes, Rotherham and Sheffield.

  "This was coupled with the need to strike the right balance for the
tournament. Setting an ambitious ticket target - with more than 700,000
tickets available for fans - whilst seeking to achieve full venues where
possible," said the English Football Association's director of women's
football Sue Campbell.

  "This is a balance we believe we have achieved in the selected venues and
cities, with England's Lionesses due to play all of their group stage games
at Premier League grounds across the country."

  Women's football was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic at time when
participation and popularity was growing rapidly after a successful 2019
World Cup in France.

  As governing bodies scrambled to restart the men's competitions as soon as
possible to secure lucrative broadcast income, even the elite end of the
women's game was treated as an afterthought.

  The Lionesses did not play a game for nearly a year between March 2020 and
February this year, while the 2019/20 Women's Super League season was
terminated with nearly a quarter of the games still to play.

  UEFA also moved the women's Euro back a year to allow the men's Euro 2020
to go ahead earlier this year.

  But UEFA's chief of women's football Nadine Kessler defended that decision
to give "maximum exposure for women's football and the goal to provide the
tournament with the centre stage it deserves."

  That call was aided by a rare space in the men's football calendar due to
the later start to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

  After being shunted into the shadows for too long, Europe's best female players will again have a stage on which to shine.BSS/AFP