UEFA have announced changes to the format of the Women’s Champions League, effective from the 2021-22 season. The format will more closely mirror the men’s with a group stage structure.
At the moment, the tournament is a straight knockout featuring 32 teams, with all ties played over two legs. Arsenal will play Paris Saint Germain in the quarter-finals in March having beaten Fiorentina and Slavia Praha comfortably in the previous rounds.
Even more pertinently for Arsenal, England have been awarded an extra space in the tournament, which means the top 3 in the WSL will qualify for the tournament starting from the 2020-21 season. (For 2019-20, it is still only the top 2 that qualify). Previously only the top 2 qualified, which meant one of Chelsea, Manchester City or Arsenal missed out every season.
The news that the top 3 will qualify from next season enormously increases Arsenal’s prospects of repeat qualification, with only 2 points separating the top 3 in the division at time of writing. The new competition will also have centralised TV rights and marketing, which is not the case currently.
UEFA summarised the key changes as per the below:
- The current knockout round of 16 will be replaced by a group stage, with four groups of four teams playing each other home and away. The top two in each group progress to the quarter-finals.
- Currently only the final is centrally marketed by UEFA, with the home sides responsible for all earlier rounds. In the new format and agreement, the media rights will be centralised from the group stage onwards, with UEFA producing every game for TV or online streaming purposes. Sponsorship rights will be partially centralised for UEFA women’s football partners from the group stage.
- In its first season, eight matchdays of the competition (two in Round 2, four in the group stage and both quarter-final legs) will be scheduled so that they will not clash with other major football competitions.
- The top-six ranked associations (as per the Women’s Association Club Coefficients at the start of the previous season, i.e. summer 2020 for 2021/22) will each enter three teams, the associations ranked seven to 16 will each enter two. All other associations have the chance to enter one team, being their domestic champion as before.
A small reminder that Arsenal remain the only British side to have won the Champions League, back in 2006/07 🙂