‘Limitless Potential’ for Women’s Football Says UEFA President

Aleksander Ceferin, President of UEFA (Photo by Maurizio Borsari/AFLO)

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin says the UEFA Women’s Champions League final will become a focal point of the calendar in its own right.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin believes the exponential growth of women’s football across Europe will ensure UEFA Women’s Champions League finals become a centrepiece of the calendar in their own right.

Wolfsburg and Lyon meet in this year’s final at the Valeriy Lobanovskyi Stadium in Kyiv on Thursday (viewers in UK can watch LIVE on , BBC Sport website, app & Connected TV from 4.45pm), two days before Real Madrid and Liverpool contest the UEFA Champions League final in the same city.

Pernille Harder & Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir of VfL Wolfsburg arrive in Kiev, ahead of tomorrow’s UWCL Final. (PA Images)

It will be the last time before the events are separated, the UEFA President explaining that the surge in popularity of women’s football – and the governing body’s commitment to growing participation, visibility and engagement in the game – has prompted the change. Next year’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final will take place in Budapest, Hungary, with the men’s version being held in Madrid.

Lyon’s goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi (left) celebrates with the trophy following last year’s UEFA Women’s Champions League Final held at the Cardiff City Stadium, 1st June 2017. Can they win the top European club prize for a record fifth time? (PA Images)

It has been a prosperous year for women’s football, with UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 recording a 50% increase in cumulative audience and UEFA launching its pan-European campaign, Together #WePlayStrong.

“I said at the UEFA Congress in Bratislava that we should dare to aim high, launch initiatives that continue to instil hope, and make European football as big as it can be,” Mr Čeferin told UEFA.com. “The potential for women’s football is limitless and it is with this in mind that we decided to separate the two UEFA Champions League events. That will give the women’s game a platform of its own, to continue to grow and to become an unmissable event and television spectacle in its own right.

“We saw at Women’s EURO how popular the game has become, both from a fan experience perspective and also to an ever-growing television audience. At UEFA we have worked harder than ever this year to maximise the potential of women’s football to tap into that growing market.”

Wolfsburg’s Alexandra Popp celebrates scoring the equaliser for VfL Wolfsburg against Olympique Lyon at Stadio Città del Tricolore in Reggio Emilia, Italy, 26 May 2016. Lyon triumphed on penalties. (PA Images)

To further reinforce the distinctiveness of women’s football, UEFA has unbundled its sponsorship rights from the men’s game to appeal to a wider audience and alter perceptions. In 2017, UEFA reported a 7.5% increase in registered girls and women participating across the 55 member associations, with further growth expected for 2018.

UEFA has also launched the hugely successful Press Play vlog on its Together #WePlayStrong channels, giving fans a unique insight into the daily lives of four professional players around Europe each week. To date, the weekly vlog has amassed almost 5m views on YouTube.

Recently, global pop star Rita Ora has also signed up as official supporter of Together #WePlayStrong, with UEFA sponsoring her European stage return with the The Girls Tour.

It is all part of a concerted effort to raise awareness of women’s football, with former German international (& VfL Wolfsburg star) and FIFA World Player of the Year Nadine Kessler appointed as head of women’s football unit.

“It’s really exciting and the continued growth of women’s football is a strategic priority for UEFA,” Kessler said. “This is a long-term project but it’s heartening to see the game become more professional across Europe. With that comes increased opportunity, exposure and affinity.

“Both Wolfsburg and Lyon deserve to be in this year’s final and will provide a great spectacle for the fans. From next season, we will give the UEFA Women’s Champions League final its own space to flourish and its own identity. At the current rate of progress, it’s a journey that will inspire more people than ever before.”