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UEFA do not lack ambition for women’s Euro, says Kessler

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UEFA women’s head of football Nadine Kessler has dismissed allegations that European football’s governing body lacked ambition when choosing venues for Euro 2022 as attendance records for the tournament in England are set to be broken.

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With a sell-out first leg between England and Austria at Old Trafford and the final at Wembley, the record crowd for a European Women’s Championship match will be broken twice.

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However, between these two landmark events on July 6 and 31, the remaining 29 games will be played in much smaller stadiums.

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Iceland midfielder Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir called the choice of the 4,400-capacity Academy Stadium for the three group matches “embarrassing” and “disrespectful”.

Leigh Sports Village, with a capacity of 7,800, will also host four matches, including the quarter-finals.

Ticket sales are approaching half a million, more than double the total attendance of the last Women’s Euro in the Netherlands five years ago.

But with over 200,000 more tickets on sale, Kessler admitted that the choice of venue had to be based on “reality” in order to create the best atmosphere in the stadiums.

“We think it’s still the right decision,” Kessler told AFP.

“I always say that while trying to have the biggest ambitions, we also cannot lose reality, and I mean the past. At our last Women’s Euro we had an average of 5,000 spectators, not counting matches in the Netherlands.

“If you increase the tournament capacity from 430,000 to 720,000, then I don’t think you can say that the tournament organizers don’t have enough ambition.”

– Visible Difference since 2017 –

The tournament was supposed to take place in 2021, but was postponed by 12 months due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the football calendar.

Covid-19 has somewhat halted the development of women’s football after a record 2019 World Cup in the number of views.

But the five years since the last Euro have changed women’s football.

Kessler has been behind a major change in the Women’s Champions League, with the introduction of a group stage for the first time last season.

Money has flowed in from new sponsors, TV rights deals and clubs now willing to spend big money to improve the standards of their women’s teams.

“My expectations are really high, I expect a noticeable difference compared to 2017,” Kessler added on what to expect on the pitch.

“I felt it already when I watched home football, and also throughout the Champions League season.

“Both showed that in many countries there is a significant improvement in what has happened with the increase in professionalism and standards in teams.

“It makes sense that you can see results on the field as well.”

Kessler was part of the German national team that won the Euro 2013. This was one of eight times Die Nationalelf have won the tournament in 12 appearances.

However, hosts England and Spain are favorites ahead of the tournament as they look to win a major women’s tournament for the first time.

France, the Netherlands and Olympic silver medalists Sweden are real contenders, while Norwegian Ada Hegerberg and Danish captain Pernille Harder will also arm their countries with two of the world’s best strikers.

“It’s good that so many contenders, so many teams have even publicly stated ambition that they all want to go for it,” Kessler said.

“The top of the pyramid has become a little wider. That’s exactly what we need to create more interest.”



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