UEFA EURO’s Impact on Women’s Football Development

Northern Ireland Women’s Under-17s game v France WU17. Photo: Northern Ireland FA

The excitement of the UEFA EURO 2024 tournament can sometimes overshadow its broader impact. Beyond the matches and medals, this tournament plays a crucial role in developing women’s football. Since 2010, the UEFA Women’s Football Development Programme (WFDP) has been boosting women’s football thanks to the UEFA HatTrick program.

This initiative invests earnings from the men’s EURO back into football, especially the women’s game. Each national association within UEFA receives funding from the WFDP to support women’s football projects.

These projects aim to increase participation at the grassroots level, enhance pathways for elite players, and make women’s competitions more visible. Some associations focus on a single project, while others support multiple initiatives.

In every case, the goal is to help women’s football reach its full potential. Soon, UEFA will highlight specific WFDP projects from all 55 member associations, but let’s first look at some key initiatives happening across Europe.

UEFA Women’s Football Development Initiatives Across Europe

The UEFA Women’s Football Development Programme has been a game-changer for women’s soccer across Europe.

By funding innovative projects and initiatives, UEFA has ensured that countless girls and women have the opportunity to play and excel in the sport. Alongside these efforts, the interest in live soccer betting has also seen a rise, reflecting the growing popularity and engagement with women’s football.

Boosting Visibility in Austria

The Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB) uses WFDP funding to increase engagement with national women’s football leagues. Fans can now catch all the top-division ÖFB Frauen Bundesliga matches live on ÖFB TV, along with highlights from the second division. Additionally, Austria’s leading TV broadcaster airs one game each week, making women’s football more accessible to a larger audience.

Creating New Clubs in Croatia

In Croatia, the establishment of five women’s football development centers has led to the creation of 15 new women’s clubs. These centers have dedicated instructors who have attracted around 2,000 new registered female players. With WFDP support, Croatia is seeing significant growth in women’s football participation.

Creating Youth Pathways in Cyprus

The Cyprus Football Association has used WFDP funding to create three new leagues at the Under-13, Under-15, and Under-18 levels. This effort has integrated women’s competition pathways with national youth championships, leading to a major increase in registered female players in recent years.

Offering More Playing Opportunities in Lithuania

The Lithuanian Football Federation aims to provide a structured and welcoming environment for young girls to play football. They have expanded their elite Under-15 women’s league and created a new elite Under-17 league. Additionally, a new amateur league with 24 teams has been launched. Participation in the Lady Golas futsal competition for girls aged 11-16 has also risen significantly since 2020, increasing by 30-50% each year.

Driving Elite Player Performance in Moldova

Moldova’s Football Association has introduced a youth development program to nurture young female talent. This initiative includes a dedicated training program for Under-14 players that aligns with the national team’s style of play. As a result, 30 players have been selected for the national women’s Under-15 team. Plans are in place to form four regional women’s Under-14 teams and offer additional training programs for up to 72 promising young players.

Strengthening Top-level Women’s Football in the Netherlands

The Dutch Women’s Eredivisie has seen significant growth, partly due to the efforts of the Royal Netherlands Football Association. The league has expanded from eight to 12 teams; each club now operates a youth team. Enhanced fan engagement includes live broadcasts of all matches on ESPN since February 2024. A notable highlight was a record attendance of 34,000 spectators for the Ajax vs. Feyenoord match at the Johan Cruijff ArenA last year.

Northern Ireland Women’s Under-17s game v France WU17. Photo: Irish Football Association

Supporting Women in Football Leadership in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Irish Football Association has used WFDP funds for the Female Football Leaders Programme, helping women develop leadership skills. Nearly 150 women have graduated from this course, which has also led to the creation of a network of women in football.

Identifying Talented Female Coaches in Norway

The Football Association of Norway focuses on identifying and nurturing talent among the country’s UEFA A Licence female football coaches. The aim is to prepare these coaches for the UEFA Pro Licence and future roles as head coaches. Since the initiative started, two female head coaches have been appointed to teams in the men’s third division.

Enhancing the Fan Experience in Switzerland

The Swiss Football Association is using WFDP support to make its women’s national cup finals more visible and exciting. They signed a three-year agreement with the 25,000-capacity Stadion Letzigrund to host the annual event. The association aims to enhance the fan experience by creating new entertainment activities on matchdays and engaging local schools and football clubs.

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