Women's Sports: How the UEFA Women's Champions League is shaking up women's football

GMSW UEFA UWCL

Alongside competitions such as the World Cup and Women's Super League, the UEFA Women's Champions League is constantly adapting to keep up with the ever-growing popularity of the female game.

Although only one game into this year's Round of 32, there is already speculation surrounding how the European competition must adapt to correctly accommodate the women's game.

The setup of this year's competition differs to the men's variant and begins with qualifiers, followed by a traditional knock-out round of 32 teams, instead of a group stage. 

The 32 teams are made up of the top 12 domestic leagues' champions and those who placed second in the top 10. A qualifying group is then used to decide the remaining 10 places and will feature other national champions.

This structure allows for involvement from more countries than the men's competition. Only 16 nations are represented in the men's Champions League, compared to the women's 21. This provides the female game with a greater reach and involves countries that otherwise wouldn't feature in the male equivalent. The widespread entry system has given teams such as Breioablik and Mitrovica chance to play against Europe's greats like Lyon and Barcelona.

Men's teams are eager to invest in their female counterparts so to achieve more success, hence discussion that the UEFA Women's Champions League could soon adopt a similar group stage arrangement.

UEFA could be introducing a possible group stage of 16 teams for two seasons time in 2021-22. There's also currently a two-team-per-country quota that could be increased to three. The rise in quota comes as good news to newly founded women's teams such as Manchester United and Real Madrid as it offers an increased opportunity to in play in Europe.

Changes come as UEFA want the women's competition to standalone from the men's. Until 2018, the women's Champions League final was played midweek in the same city as the men's final and acted as a warm-up fixture. Last season, however, the women's final was played in Budapest on the May 18, and the men's in Madrid on June 1. Small modifications, such as this date change, are providing the women's competition, and therefore game, with its own identity.

These particular adjustments are slowly rippling through the game. The Women's Champions League has a different sponsor to the men's. VISA is backing women's European football until 2025 whereas the male game is supported by Mastercard. Nike also designs balls for the women in Europe, yet Adidas provide for the male game.  

UEFA UWCL

There's one difference, however, that isn't for the better of the women's game in Europe and that's the difference in pay. Despite advances in the female game, the women's prize fund is 0.25% of what the men receive.

UEFA award each female team that make the Round of 32 €70,000, however, their male counterparts are awarded €15 million should they reach the group stage of the competition.

This seasons winner of the Women's Champions League final can expect to receive around €460,000.

UEFA are prepared to make changes to the women's competition to determine the game's identity, nevertheless, more must be done before the female game can stand equal against the men's.

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