UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino looks ahead to an exciting year in women's football in the latest edition of UEFA•direct.
In the coming year, women's football will occupy some key dates in the European football calendar.
The UEFA Women's EURO 2013 is being staged in Sweden in July, two months after the most important women's club competition fixture – the 2012/13 UEFA Women's Champions League final on Thursday 23 May at Stamford Bridge in London. Although the capacity of Chelsea FC's stadium means that the record attendance of last year's final (50,212) cannot be equalled or exceeded, UEFA is aware that overall, the competition is appealing to a growing audience across Europe.
Apart from these two highlights, UEFA women's football development tournaments will also be taking place in spring and summer 2013. These tournaments, which started in 2012, are now open to all UEFA member associations, offering national women's Under-16 and Under-17 teams the opportunity to enhance their skills in competitive international matches. In turn, this will raise the level of UEFA's women's national team competitions, beginning with the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship, which, for its 2013/14 edition, will have a final tournament held elsewhere than Nyon for the first time – with England hosting the expanded eight-team event in November/December 2013.
These are not token gestures on behalf of women's football, but important additions to an expanding annual calendar aimed at strengthening Europe's footballing elite. UEFA recognises its responsibility to promote the women's game.
The UEFA women's football development programme – which forms part of UEFA's HatTrick programme of annual incentive solidarity payments – in itself represents a substantial investment, totalling €21.2m over the next four years.
This investment should deliver UEFA's objective of supporting every member association through its women's football development strategy so that, from the grassroots level up, all girls get the chance to play football locally.
Moreover, the UEFA Executive Committee decided in March 2011 to ensure that a woman was included among its ranks, and this has been another milestone in sending a clear political message about UEFA's stand on women's football.
UEFA's lead in changing its approach towards football's governance is having a positive effect across the game, as the number of women in leadership positions rises. The number of women on UEFA committees has also climbed significantly, standing at 22 in all for the 2011–15 period – an increase of 47% compared with 2009–11.
Such changes can only be good for the future of football from everyone's perspective.
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