Milton Keynes to host UEFA EURO 2021 matches as England awarded tournament
The prestigious continental championship will be played at eight venues across the country including in Berks & Bucks at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes before concluding with a showpiece final at Wembley Stadium. With a strong bid to bring the tournament back to this country for the first time since 2005, no other countries went up against the Football Association’s entry. It means England will qualify automatically for the 16-team finals as hosts.
The FA’s decision to bid was part of its ‘Gameplan for Growth’ strategy to grow the women’s game, and followed the successful Euro 2017 campaign in the Netherlands which saw the Lionesses reach the semi-finals, generating a record peak audience of four million TV viewers in the UK. That success was followed by a best-ever showing at the SheBelieves Cup in the United States in March 2018 and qualification in August 2018 for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup next June.
The bid proposes a country-wide spread of host cities and stadia of varying capacities, a year after hosting the equivalent final for the men's tournament at Wembley. Since the initial bid, two of the venues have been changed as a result of UEFA requirements.
The proposed cities and stadia are:
• Brighton & Hove - AMEX Stadium
• London - Wembley Stadium connected by EE
• London - Brentford Community Stadium
• Milton Keynes - Stadium MK
• Manchester - Manchester City Academy Stadium
• Nottingham – City Ground
• Rotherham - AESSEAL New York Stadium
• Sheffield - Bramall Lane
• Southampton – St. Mary’s Stadium
Liz Verrall, Berks & Bucks FA's Chief Executive Officer, said: "This is fantastic news for the local community and will have a significant impact on Women’s & Girls' football across Berks & Bucks.
"Hosting matches in our county in such a prestigious tournament represents a tremendous opportunity to grow the game further across Berks & Bucks; helping to inspire a new generation to participate in football and encouraging those already taking part to continue their journey in the sport in whatever role they choose.
“As the County FA of a host city we are incredibly excited to be involved and are looking forward to implementing a number of exciting initiatives and activities in the lead up to the start of the UEFA Women's EURO 2021 competition."
The next key date will be the draw for the qualifying group stage, which will be held on 22 February next year. Following that, the qualifiers will be played from August 2019 to September 2020 to determine 12 of the finalists, with the play-offs determining the last three entrants in October 2020.
Martin Glenn, The FA’s chief executive officer, said: “Bringing Euro 2021 to England will be a tremendous opportunity to celebrate women’s football and will allow us to amplify our significant commitment to growing the game.
“In January, we pledged an additional £50m investment over the next six years and grassroots initiatives like our popular SSE Wildcats scheme for 5-11-year-old girls has seen the number of centres more than quadruple over the past year to 880.
“We cannot underestimate the positive impact this tournament will have on inspiring the next generation. Young girls and boys will be lifted by the chance to see Europe’s elite on their doorstep and it can only help the collective effort across our leagues and clubs to grow the game even further, especially with our restructured FA Women’s Super League making such a promising start.
“I am grateful to Aleksander Ceferin and the UEFA Executive Committee for recognising the work we are doing. We are determined to put on a great showcase with Europe’s top talent playing in front of packed stadiums. To have Wembley for the showpiece final will be a fitting conclusion to what I am certain will be a wonderful tournament.
“I would also like to thank everyone who has worked on this successful bid, not just across The FA but also the clubs and cities concerned. A huge amount of effort and collaboration has gone into making this possible. With the World Cup next summer in France, there is plenty to look forward to in the women’s game.”
Baroness Sue Campbell, The FA’s director of women’s football, said:“This is fantastic news for The FA, the country and, crucially, for the future development of girls’ and women’s football in England.
“Tournaments of the scale and profile of Euro 2021 have the power to inspire a new generation of young girls, and women of all ages, to get involved in the sport – for fitness, competition or just pure enjoyment, as well as the opportunity to grow support for the women’s game at both a club and national level.
“That’s exactly what our Gameplan for Growth strategy, launched in 2017, set out to achieve. A home Euros in 2021 has the potential to be a pivotal moment in the development of the women’s game in England.”
The FA’s bid has the full support of the UK Government. Sports Minister Mims Davies said: “Women's football is booming, with investment, participation and support greater than ever before.
“Playing host to the European Championship will give us a new platform to inspire the nation and a new generation of young footballers. We are a world-leader in hosting major sporting events and I would like to congratulate all the partners on putting together such a strong bid.”
England previously staged UEFA Women’s Euro 2005 at venues across the north-west of the country with 29,092 watching England’s opening win against Finland in Manchester a record for an opening group match.
Earlier this year, St. George’s Park and stadiums across the Midlands and South Yorkshire hosted the UEFA Men’s Euro U17, while Wembley Stadium will be a key venue when UEFA Euro 2020 is played across 12 European cities.