European women’s soccer vision sees place for indie clubs

<p>GENEVA &mdash; Independent teams should have a place beside storied names from men’s soccer even as the women’s game develops rapidly, the organization of Europe’s top clubs said Monday.</p>
<p>Clubs such as Fortuna Hjørring and Glasgow City — which do not have men’s teams — are currently a fixture in the later knockout rounds of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.</p>
<p>The competition figures to get only tougher for the long-standing independents after Juventus and Real Madrid bought into women’s soccer in the past four years.</p>
<p>Creating new clubs is one of six key goals in <a href="">a strategy for women’s soccer</a> published by the European Club Association, which represents around 250 men’s clubs.</p>
<p>Those new clubs should include “big brands” and “green field clubs” joining the sport, said ECA chief executive Charlie Marshall. </p>
<p>“Finding avenues to launch, to grow and to professionalize new clubs is a big part of what we want to try to achieve,” he told reporters in an online briefing.</p>
<p>The document also foresees providing a “care package” to support clubs that are “teetering on the verge of existence.”</p>
<p>Marshall acknowledged the bigger men’s clubs would continue to invest in women’s soccer and “that is not something that is going to be prevented or indeed should be prevented.”</p>
<p>Juventus and Madrid bought the license of local women’s clubs that were then rebranded in their names, while Manchester United created a team in 2018 that won promotion to the top-tier English division in its debut season.</p>
<p>The appeal of the Women’s Super League in England was shown with a <a href="">breakout domestic broadcasting deal </a> announced this month.</p>
<p>One attraction for the biggest clubs is changes to the UEFA Women’s Champions League, which was won for the past five seasons by Lyon. </p>
<p>Next season it will have three teams instead of two from the top-ranked nations — including England and Spain — plus <a href="">a new 16-team group stage</a>. The final will be hosted at the 41,000-capacity home of Juventus in Turin.</p>
<p>Another key aim in the ECA is “development of the competition landscape,” with a second European club competition targeted.</p>
<p>FIFA also has a long-time goal of creating a Club World Cup. With strong opponents from the United States, Europe would be less likely to dominate as it has in the men’s version.</p>
<p>The ECA strategy also seeks to run more medical research and data analysis projects that are currently lacking in women’s soccer. </p>
<p>Sharing details of running youth academies is a main target, said Claire Bloomfield, the ECA head of women’s football.</p>
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