Since the launch of UEFA’s Time For Action women’s football strategy in 2019, the game has made fantastic progress at every level.
From the magic of last summer’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 and record-breaking attendances in the UEFA Women’s Champions League to the rising number of women and girls playing football at grassroots level, there is much to celebrate. But the work isn’t done yet, there are many more targets to hit as we expand the game across the continent.
UEFA Chief Executive Officer for Women’s Football, Nadine Kessler, looks back on recent achievements and assesses where steps still need to be taken to reach Time For Action’s ambitious goals.
Nadine, UEFA has initiated a number of projects to drive progress. Which initiatives stand out as game changers?
“Firstly, the record-breaking EURO 2022. The standards set were at a completely new level. We really tried to raise the bar and it was fantastic to see her legacy in England and beyond. It was still a great atmosphere where they went, and more than half of the audience was female, which is important for our main goals.
“Second, the overhaul of the Women’s Champions League – not just the format, but also other elements, such as better conditions for players and, for the first time, maternity rules. We have also given the competition more visibility by centralizing rights and generating revenue streams to support clubs across Europe. The solidarity program we have put in place also sends a strong signal of our broader responsibility within football.
“From a grassroots perspective, our Playmakers program has been very successful. It’s amazing to see how many girls have responded to a little Disney magic.”
How does UEFA’s use of elite competitions to encourage development at all levels demonstrate the strength of the European sport model?
“Our responsibility is to make sure everyone has access to football, regardless of race, gender or anything else. We’ve tried to do that in all our projects – grassroots football and competitive structures. We must ensure that our investments and programs support all levels of the pyramid. Without a base there is no top – and vice versa. We are very aware of that and it will be a key priority for years to come.”
While UEFA is on track to achieve most of its strategic goals, differences between European associations remain. How can we create a level playing field?
“Probably the biggest challenge is helping everyone move forward together. Despite their proximity, our members are very diverse, with different levels of development and cultural barriers. My answer is dedicated support, especially for small and medium-sized clubs. Our new competition formats will help, but more specialized support is key – always with the mindset that we need to move forward together.”
What lessons from the first half of Time for Action will guide UEFA’s approach to the next strategy?
“The most important lesson is that a strategic plan works because it creates a long-term mindset. This is so important, especially for a burgeoning sport like ours – for planning, commitment and visibility. Women’s football is growing, growing, growing a challenge but we’re very happy with how it’s going and already thinking about after 2024. It’s our first women’s strategy but it won’t be our last.”