The UEFA European Women's Championship will kick off in just over two months' time, with England hosting the tournament for the second time in its history. Despite the fact that the grand final will take place at Wembley, the stadiums approved for the tournament, according to many, are… too small.
The Women's EURO will be held for the 13th time in history. The inaugural tournament was organised by several countries, and from the next edition, in 1987, only one host was chosen. This has changed over the years - in 1995 the idea of playing the championships in more than two countries was revived, and two years later the EURO took place in Norway and Sweden.
The gap between the tournaments has also evolved. It was 3 years between the first and second editions, then 2 years for six consecutive tournaments, and now (following the example of the men's competition) the European Women's Championship is held once every 4 years. You could say that this year the organisers have deviated from the rule again, but the five-year gap between EURO 2017 and the current one was caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The arenas of this year's tournament include London's Wembley, where the grand final will take place on July 31, 2022. Until now, it was possible to blindly bet on the fact that Germany will most likely feature in the most important match of the championship, but their success streak (gold medal in 6 consecutive tournaments) was stopped in 2017 by the Dutch.
In addition to the legendary stadium where the men's national team won the World Cup in 1966, the list also includes several famous venues. Old Trafford in Manchester, Bramall Lane in Sheffield, St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, Falmer Stadium in Brighton and Stadium MK in Milton Keynes are all arenas that could hold over 30,000 spectators. So why do female footballers complain about not being able to play in front of a large crowd of fans?
It just so happened that, as well as the big stadiums that hold full audiences every matchday in England's top three tiers, the female footballers will be playing in arenas the Premier League saw only in photos. Although Brentford currently play in the EPL, their Community Stadium is definitely not one of the biggest in the country and the smallest in the league.
It gets even worse when we look at the 3 smallest arenas of the championship. New York Stadium in Rotherham, Leigh Sports Village in Leigh and, above all, Etihad Academy Stadium in Manchester are certainly not the venues where the best national teams on the continent would like to play. The Icelanders have a particular complaint about this, having drawn a group in which they will only play their matches in the two smallest stadiums.
It's shocking. We're playing a tournament in England, which has big stadiums, and we have to play in a training facility that holds about 5,000 spectators - Iceland's national team captain Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir said on "The Pitch" podcast. The event's press office strongly disagreed, stating that
Etihad Academy Stadium is a venue which in the past has hosted women's Champions League matches.
Women's football is taking two steps in the right direction, but then things like this happen and it takes a step back (...) They should 100 percent rethink it. If we look at the reactions, how many people are buying tickets and how popular it has become, they need to rethink it - added the player, who represents Olympique Lyon on a daily basis.