‘We are in an interesting space’ – UEFA explains choice of Women’s Euro 2022 venues amid criticism

Questions have been raised over the choice of grounds, particularly Manchester City’s Academy stadium which can seat less than 5,000 fans

UEFA has explained the process of choosing venues for this summer’s Euros, following criticism of some of the stadiums. Iceland midfielder Sara Bjork Gunarsdottir was one of the most vocal pre-tournament, describing it as “embarrassing” and “disrespectful” that her team will play their first two group games at Manchester City’s Academy stadium, which has a limited capacity of 4,700.

The Nordic nation’s first fixture there was subject to a stunt by one betting company asking why games could not be played at Etihad Stadium across the road.

However, UEFA believes the process it has for selecting the grounds for the tournament is “as close to” perfect as it could have been at the time they were chosen.

What has been said about the Women’s Euro venues?

Speaking on the Footballco Business Podcast just before the tournament began, Kayleigh Grieve, who works in women’s football marketing and sponsorship at UEFA, explained the reasoning behind the stadium.

“Those associations that are bidding to host the tournament will make the proposals to us of which stadiums [will be used]based on a criteria we have in our bidding structure of who comes forward,” she said.

“So it’s not UEFA that goes in and solicits the stadiums we want, but we look at that together.

“We are in an interesting space. Clearly, the bidding for this tournament happened a number of years ago and the women’s game has been evolving rapidly from there.

“So where do you put the pin in terms of what stadiums that you use is a very challenging thing for any federation taking this on now.

“From the [Football Association’s] perspective, this was their role to do this but from the process we went through with them, it was clear that it would be better to have a full, slightly smaller stadium or a medium sized stadium than having really low numbers in huge stadiums. The atmosphere just is very different.”

Grieve notes the “appetite for games growing”, particularly noting the sell-out crowds at Camp Nou, but admits “that’s not the norm now, so we can’t pretend to ourselves that that’s going to be the norm and every game will be sold out”.

She also discussed the lack of “huge traveling fans” in women’s football as another factor.

“We know we have to generate the majority still of ticket sales from the local communities in the stadiums that we will go forward with for the tournament,” Grieve added.

“We have to get those stadiums and, more so, the cities to be invested and want this to come to their city. They need to be willing to invest in that experience for fans and in the marketing behind the games as well.

“These are all the factors that we’re considering. Is it perfect? We don’t know, but I think it’s as close to it as we could possibly put a finger on at that moment in time when we had to make these decisions to get an idea of ​​how we will create atmosphere at these games.”

What are the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 venues?

Wembley is the headline stadium for the tournament, the 90,000-seater venue hosting the final on July 31. Manchester United’s Old Trafford held the opening game between England and Austria, which welcomed a record-breaking attendance.

The rest of the stadiums then all hold below 33,000 fans, ranging from Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane down to the Manchester City Academy stadium.

“What you can see in the strategy for this edition of the Women’s Euro is certainly the showcase games, the opening and the closing, [we] went big and we’ve been proven right on that one because the ticket sales are all sold out there,” Grieve said.

“The England games are clearly in the slightly bigger stadiums in the group stages, at least, and have sold out along that route as well. Then we have some varying degrees of stadiums beyond that. There’s a variety in there.”

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