Women’s Champions League Poised To Take Center Stage During Men’s World Cup

Women’s Champions League Poised To Take Center Stage During Men’s World Cup

I am a freelance journalist from England covering women's soccer around the world since 2011.

The group stage draw for the UEFA Women's Champions League threw up several intriguing ties as on the back of a season which set records for attendances and viewing figures throughout the continent, UEFA hope to make the most of the gap in the European men's club season created by the winter World Cup to consolidate the growth of the women's game.

Eight-time champions Olympique Lyonnais have been drawn in the same group as the only English winners of the competition, Arsenal. as well as Italian champions Juventus. Spanish champions, FC Barcelona will play twice against German side FC Bayern Munich and English champions Chelsea FC, who went out in the group stage last season will have to finish ahead of either Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid to reach the last eight this time.

Ten of the clubs in this year's group stage, the first in the competition's history also played in it last season but there are six new teams and for the first time clubs from Albania, Austria and Czechia will participate. Indeed, KFF Vllaznia will make history as the first Albanian team to ever play in the group stage of a men's or women's Champions League in perhaps the toughest group alongside Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

The sixteen teams competing in the group stage will once more be guaranteed a minimum income of €400,000 ($391,164) for playing in their six matches with extra payments for each additional win or draw achieved. In addition, 23% of revenue from the competition, amounting to €5.6 million ($5.5 million), will be distributed to each of UEFA's member associations in "solidarity payments" based on the performance of their clubs in the competition and to be shared equally among the clubs in their top domestic league not taking part in the Champions League.

With the men's World Cup in Qatar moved from the summer to the middle of the European club season, the women's Champions League will be the only top-level soccer played on the continent during late November and early December with four of the six group-stage matchdays taking place in the hiatus created by the World Cup.

UEFA will be hoping to capitalize on this opportunity to build on the success of last season's group stage. According to global broadcasters, DAZN last season's competition was watched by 56 milion people around the world in 230 countries and territories. Attendances records were also set in many countries during the competition with FC Barcelona twice breaking the world-record crowd at a women's soccer match with gates over 91,000 for the Champions League quarter and semi-final ties.

Barcelona, Lyon and England's Arsenal have already committed to staging each of their home matches at their main club stadium with other clubs sure to follow as most major stadiums will be otherwise unused during this period due to the break in the men's club season.

This season's group stage will also be the last to be streamed live in its entirety, for free around the world on the DAZN YouTube channel. As part of agreed in 2021, from next season, DAZN will put the majority of matches behind a paywall, only available to live stream to subscribers. The broadcasters remain that the free exposure they are giving to the Women's Champions League, coupled with subsequent deals to , will convince enough fans to pay for content in future and create a sustainable financial future for the European women's club game.

Speaking ahead of the draw about the success of the competition last season, UEFA's Head of Women's Football, Nadine Kessler said "we changed perceptions because people said 'there are no fans in women's football'. We opened one iconic 'men's' stadium after another. We pulled in fans from over 200 countries watching on TV or digital devices. We captured more eyes for future generations of footballers to rise."

"We have grown to a point where women's football has never been more popular where female role models are finally being seen and player registrations are up and still rising and you know what, we will do it again this season."