European Super League: Nadine Kessler argues women's football at threat

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Nadine Kessler, UEFA’s chief of women’s football, has released an open letter on the proposed European Super League and its potential impact on women’s football.

Football fans were thrown into disarray when Premier League sides Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham announced yesterday they would join AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid in establishing a "new midweek competition".

Named the European Super League, the competition is set to start as soon as possible, with a further three teams expected to complete the founding club line-up. The ESL also announced it would launch a women’s competition after the men’s tournament got underway.

The plans have been widely criticised, including by women’s football fans. Kessler, a former VfL Wolfsburg player who was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2014, has underscored the most common concerns in her letter.

No consultation

In her letter, Kessler revealed the ESL had not consulted with either her or UEFA about their plans for a women’s competition.

“This news comes without any consultation and at the time where the UEFA Women’s Champions League is about to see a transformative change as of next summer,” she said.

“In other words, it is a direct threat to all the plans we have carefully crafted, together with the ECA, your clubs and the leagues, for the new UEFA Women’s Champions League. A new UWCL that will provide visibility, more competition, financial reward, and solidarity, all with the aim of bringing about a new era for the whole of women’s football.

“A competition that will be open and therefore allows for clubs and players from all over Europe to continue the dream of winning the most prestigious club trophy in the world.”

This confirms the suspicions of fans and journalists, who felt the addition of a woman’s competition in the ESL statement was simply an afterthought.

“There's a lot to dislike in the Super League statement – but just dangling that women's equivalent in (without any details or elucidation) – sums up the lack of imagination of the pale stale men behind all this,” Adam Crafton, a reporter for The Athletic, has posted yesterday.

Stunting the women’s game

Kessler goes on to explain how she felt a Women’s European Super League would be damaging. She cited the small number of professional clubs in women’s football, the need to have competitive events, and the potential devastation to national leagues, as reasons to oppose the ESL plans.

“Women’s football, its professionalisation and development are still in the early stages. Only a small proportion of players unfortunately have full-time professions and guaranteed access to top class facilities.

“Whilst there have been momentous strides in the game, we need more clubs, federations and governing bodies investing to provide professional structures for more players to benefit from. And we do not only need more clubs, but a better balance between those clubs, so that more than just a few standout players can thrive on it.

“These clubs need to be able to have the ambition of being part of the top of European women’s club football, the UEFA Women’s Champions League. With a closed European Women’s Super League, this is not possible.

“Of course, such development would be equally devastating for all the national leagues, who have made enormous efforts to professionalise the women’s game. All the great steps made in recent years, including the hardship of many players gone before, for our game to become a profession across Europe, will have less of a chance of becoming a reality.”

Call for solidarity

Kessler ended her open letter by calling for solidarity across football in standing against the European Super League.

“We always talk about stronger ties between men’s and women’s football, about increased solidarity – now it’s the time to show solidarity,” she said.

“This current entire football ecosystem funds everything from grassroots to elite, including women’s football – vital funding streams, that these parts of the game, our game, depend on.

“Please take some time to read into the details of this debate and why the football pyramid with its principles of solidarity have made our sport the most successful in the world.

“No matter how you make up your mind, your opinion as a player, as a women’s football champion matters, women’s football’s opinion matters. The values of our sport matter in times when greed seems to overshadow the broader needs of society and football as a whole. Because solidarity matters!”

The full letter can be found here.

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