UEFA will transform the format of its Women’s Champions League in 2021/22 – a move designed to boost competitiveness and increase exposure of women’s club football through its elite competition.
The changes, announced Wednesday by the UEFA Executive Committee, represent a fundamental shift from the current format. As of the 2021/22 season clubs in rounds 1 and 2 will be split into champions (for domestic league winners) and league paths as they try to reach the new 16-team group stage. This new round will see four groups of four teams playing each other home and away, with the top two in each group progressing to quarterfinal matches.
“Today’s decision is a game-changer for women’s football,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin. “The world’s best women’s club competition will get both the platform and visibility it deserves.”
Maximising media coverage
UEFA’s decision also includes specific steps to increase exposure of its elite women’s club competition. Marketing and television coverage will be centralised from the group stage onwards, while – in its first season – eight matchdays (two in round 2, four in the group stage and both quarterfinal legs) will be scheduled to ensure that they do not clash with any other major fixtures in the European football calendar.
The package of changes agreed demonstrates the commitment of European football’s governing body to implementing its five-year strategic goal for the women’s game: to double the reach and value of the UEFA Women’s Champions League by 2024.
“When we launched our ground-breaking women’s football strategy #TimeForAction earlier this year, we promised to take concrete steps to ensure a more professional and prosperous women’s game,” said Mr Ceferin. “By guaranteeing teams more matches against their elite rivals, we believe that the group structure will raise the quality of the women’s game even more.”
VAR use expanded
The UEFA Executive Committee also agreed to use VAR in the upcoming European Qualifiers play-offs in March 2020, and in the 2022 European Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, subject to approval from FIFA for the latter.
Play-off format for 2022 FIFA World Cup
The qualification system to determine the 13 European teams that qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup was approved as follows, pending validation from FIFA:
• the ten group winners from the European Qualifiers will qualify directly for the final tournament;
• plus, the three winners from a play-off round involving
- the ten group runners-up from the European Qualifiers;
- and the two best group winners of the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League overall ranking that have neither qualified directly for the final tournament as European Qualifiers group winners, nor entered the play-offs already as European Qualifiers group runners-up.
The combined qualification path to the play-offs including both the European Qualifiers runners-up and teams based on the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League results is rooted in UEFA’s intention to reward the sporting achievements in the UEFA Nations League group phase, in line with the original philosophy of the UEFA Nations League which rewards all teams for their achievements, independently of the league they play in.
Three play-off paths will be formed with two semifinal pairings each. The semifinals will be played in single-leg knockout matches. The winner of each semi-final will advance to their respective play-off final, whereby a draw will be conducted in advance to determine the team playing at home.
The winners of the three play-off finals qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
League phase draw of the UEFA Nations League
The draw procedure for the league phase of the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League – based on the new format as decided by the UEFA Executive Committee in September 2019 in Ljubljana – was approved. The draw will take place in Amsterdam on March 3, 2020 at 18.00 CET.
2020 UEFA Futsal Champions League Finals
Minsk was appointed to host the 2020 UEFA Futsal Champions League finals. It will be the first time ever that the finals are staged at a neutral venue. The teams of Barça (ESP), KPRF (RUS), Murcia FS (ESP) and Tyumen (RUS) will compete for the title from April 23-26, 2020.
UEFA Women’s EURO 2021 match schedule
The UEFA Executive Committee also confirmed the match schedule for UEFA Women’s EURO 2021. The tournament will take place from July 7 to August 1, 2021, with the final being played at Wembley Stadium in London. The venue for the opening match will be confirmed in due course.
2020/21 UEFA Women’s Futsal EURO
The regulations of the 2020/21 UEFA European Women’s Futsal Championship – which will be the second edition of the tournament – were approved.
Child safeguarding policy
The UEFA Executive Committee approved a child safeguarding policy and a child safeguarding toolkit for its member associations to ensure that football is a safe, positive and enjoyable experience for all children and young people involved.
The next meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee is scheduled for March 2, 2020 in Amsterdam.