Women's Euro 2022 – Wembley, Old Trafford but also tiny stadiums: the choice of speakers, the first misstep?

Women’s Euro 2022 – Wembley, Old Trafford but also tiny stadiums: the choice of speakers, the first misstep?

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It is not yet known if the Three Lionesses will make their country roar with pleasure. But one certainty is already emerging as Euro 2022 opens on English soil on Wednesday: they are lucky. Facing Austria (9 p.m.), they will have the honor of opening the competition in the legendary Old Trafford, which promises to be full and committed to their cause. 70,000 fans is a lot of noise. 4,400, much less. Yet it is the big gap that awaits this Euro.

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Because while England will enjoy their group stage with probably sold-out stadiums in Manchester, but also in Brighton (29,200 seats) and Southampton (31,100 seats), Iceland will have the impression of not not fight in the same category. The draw gave the Icelanders a not far from depressing first round with two duels played at Manchester City Academy. Maximum attendance during this Euro? 4,400 seats. All before a possible decisive match against the Blues at New York Stadium in Rotherham, with a maximum capacity of 10,400 seats.

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Inevitably, on the Icelandic side, the pill goes badly. “I’m a little disappointed with the stadiumshad launched Björk Gunnarsdottir, OL player and important part of the Icelandic team in the podcast ‘Their Pitch’. It’s shocking to be in England, where there are so many stadiums and you inherit a Manchester City training ground which hosts 4,000 spectators“. A stadium with higher attendance in normal times (more than 8,000 seats) which cannot be exploited to the maximum due to the absence of standing stands for the Euro.

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Manchester City Academy Stadium will be one of the host stadiums for Euro 2022

Credit: Getty Images

“A lack of respect”

It’s just shameful (…) it’s a lack of respect for women’s football“, she continued. On the Icelandic side, it is as much a disavowal for the players as a blow for the supporters. France remembers it: when Iceland is there, it is the assurance of atmospheres of madness and images capable of making the event grow. “They say they don’t want to oversell matches but the fact is that our women’s team is much better than the men’s right nowsmiled for The Athletic Tanja Isfjord, Icelandic supporter and equality campaigner in this small country. […] If the team publicizes the discrimination against it so much, it is because it wants to mobilize around these issues and affirm that this is not enough. They deserve to be seen“.

They are not the only ones to have made this observation. The Netherlands, defending champions, and Sweden, serious outsiders to the final victory, will notably pass through the suburbs of Wigan and the Leigh Sports Village stadium, with… 7,800 seats. “When I see the stadiums where the matches will take place, I am skepticalhad also estimated Mark Parsons, the coach of the Dutch, with AFP in February (…) Have we seen too small as sometimes happens with women’s football? My opinion is that we could have filled bigger stadiums“.

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Faced with the controversy, the organization did not hesitate to play the real-politik card, deliberately omitting that certain more suitable venues, in Newcastle, Sunderland or Middlesbrough, passed their turn in 2019 when organizing the competition. “Even if we have the greatest ambitions, we must take reality into account and look to the pasthad thus justified Nadine Kessler, the patron saint of women’s football at UEFA. During the last Euro (in 2017 in the Netherlands, editor’s note), we had 5,000 spectators on average, if we remove the matches of the Netherlands.” But since then, the craze around women’s national teams has only grown, all over Europe.

In France, in particular, if the momentum was cut off by the Covid crisis, the World Cup had generated record audiences and a real wind of optimism for the future. However, Corinne Deacon considered the choice of UEFA rather coherent. The reason ? Better small armored stadiums than large deserted enclosures. “There were posters in Nice, in a large stadium, with very few spectatorsshe remembered last May. Is it better to have a completely full 4,000 seat stadium or a 20,000 seat stadium filled with 4,000 people?“.

So, is this Euro already a discount European championship for spectators? Not sure. Last week, UEFA boasted that they had already sold more than 500,000 tickets for the event. Since it is also a symbol, the attendance records for a Euro match should be thus exploded for the opening match and for the final. Without exceeding Barça’s record last March: 91,648 spectators gathered at Camp Nou to watch the Catalans’ victory against Wolfsburg. That’s 87,248 more than the “lucky ones” at Manchester City Academy Stadium…

With AFP

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