Burton-on-Trent (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Euro 2022 organizers have responded to suggestions of a lack of ambition for women’s football when they selected several small venues for the July tournament in England.
British Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham even admitted that clubs must be persuaded to host matches.
The Euros will begin and end in front of sold-out crowds at iconic stadiums at Old Trafford and Wembley.
However, Manchester City’s Academy Stadium and Leigh Sports Village will host games with a capacity of less than 10,000 people.
Brighton, Brentford, Milton Keynes, Rotherham, Sheffield and Southampton will also host matches.
Iceland midfielder Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir has criticized some of the venue choices – calling the use of the Academy Stadium, which will have a capacity of 4,700, “shameful” and “disrespectful”.
However, the FA’s director of women’s football, Sue Campbell, said there were still 275,000 tickets left for sale.
Ticket sales have hit 450,000 and are expected to surpass the half-million mark in the most-attended European Women’s Championship ever.
“You have a big stadium open, you have a big stadium closed at Old Trafford and Wembley,” Campbell told reporters on Tuesday.
“We thought we had the right balance of rights.”
All three of England’s group stage matches against Austria, Norway and Northern Ireland are sold out, as is the final on July 31.
Tournament chief Chris Bryant has defended England’s decision not to play all of England’s games at Wembley, just as the men’s team enjoyed all home games at Euro 2020 last year.
However, he accepted that demand for women’s sport has increased significantly since the venues were selected as part of the winning bid in 2018.
“I think we can all perceive an interest in hosting women’s sporting events that is probably not what it is today,” says Bryant.
“We knew we needed to sell out matches and we really wanted the idea of sold-out matches to be a good thing because that’s an achievement, it’s an achievement and we really proud of that.
“That then shifts the demand for people who can’t attend one England match to other matches where we need atmosphere and attendance to support the tournament.”
Bullingham said clubs must be eligible to host the tournament once the bidding process begins.
“The absolute truth of it is that we ran a bidding process across every major land and city in the country and there were very few who wanted to host the Women’s Euro,” he said.
“We actually had to convince a few clubs and cities to continue so we are very pleased with where we have come.
“We thought we had some great venues. If you think people have slammed our doors down to host games, that’s not it.”
He opened the tournament on 6 July against Austria.
© 2022 AFP