London (AFP) – England will kick off the 2021 women’s European Championship at Old Trafford as part of an ambitious target to sell 700,000 tickets for the event and smash previous attendance records.
The final of the 16-team tournament between July 7 and August 1 next year will take place at Wembley with eight other stadiums across England hosting the other 29 matches.
“To kick-off at the Theatre of Dreams in Manchester and to have the final at the iconic Wembley Stadium shows just how far the game has come,” said UEFA’s head of women’s football and former German international Nadine Kessler.
“This is what women’s football deserves. To play in such stadia is what you strive for — as a player, coach, referee and a fan.”
England’s Football Association is hoping to ride the momentum of the Lionesses’ run to the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup.
A UK television audience of 11.7 million watched England’s defeat in the last four to world champions the United States.
Attendances at Women’s Super League games have increased this season on the back of that success, with big crowds in particular for a number of fixtures played at the likes of Stamford Bridge, Anfield, the Etihad and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
England’s 2-1 friendly defeat by Germany at Wembley fell just short of a European record for a women’s match as nearly 78,000 attended.
Sheffield, Brentford, Brighton, Leigh, Rotherham, Milton Keynes, Southampton and Manchester City’s Academy stadium will host 29 of the 31 matches with capacities ranging from 4,700 to 32,000.
The plan to sell 700,000 tickets is an ambitious one. At the 2017 Euros in the Netherlands, which the hosts won to boost crowd numbers, only 240,000 tickets were sold.
The largest attendance at last year’s World Cup was 58,000 and the previous record for a match at the women’s Euros is 41,000.
However, having witnessed the massive transformation in the popularity of the women’s game in England, Sue Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football is hopeful of “raising the bar” once again.
“We want with UEFA to make this the most successful tournament,” said Campbell.
“Euro 2021 is an opportunity to build on that platform and take it to another level.
“What we hope for the tournament is to raise the bar yet again for the women’s game in England. We thought we had raised it pretty high in the last few years but we want to lift it again.
“More fans watching; more women playing; more women coaching; more women refereeing.”
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