UEFA is increasing funding in its Women's Football Development Programme by 50% in order to show the organisation's commitment to supporting the women's game.
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Women's football is growing in popularity both at elite and grassroots level and to ensure this positive trend continues, UEFA has taken the decision to approve a 50% increase in funding to back women's football development projects across Europe.
As part of UEFA's HatTrick programme, which redistributes funds to all 55 member associations for approved development projects, the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP) currently provides each member association with €100,000 per year. This figure will now rise to €150,000 annually from 2020 – an increase of 50%.
HatTrick is funded from revenues from the UEFA European Championship and has invested more than €1.8bn back into the game since its introduction following UEFA EURO 2004. The scheme has helped UEFA's members to build national training centres and invest in grassroots projects to develop football at all levels.
"The potential for women's football is limitless and it is with this in mind UEFA has taken the step to increase the funding available to the national associations to help improve the women's game across the continent,” said UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin. "Increasing the participation and the role of women in football has been one of my main objectives, both before and after I became UEFA president."
The aim of the WFDP is to give UEFA and the national associations the chance to implement their visions as well as allowing the associations to advance in accordance with their respective needs. UEFA is determined to push the European women's game forward in the years to come and encourage girls and women to get even more involved in football.
The announcement forms part of UEFA's pledge to the #WhatIf campaign – a social media-based initiative created by the organisation Women in Football.
Women in Football, a not for profit organisation, champions female talent in a bid to bring about a change in attitudes to professional women working in the industry.
#WhatIf is an innovative campaign that inspires and encourages businesses, celebrities and members of the public to identify one way that they can take action to contribute to empowering girls and women.
"We launched #WhatIf nearly five months ago and the support we have received from the football industry and beyond has been immense," said Ebru Köksal, chairperson of Women in Football. "To now welcome UEFA, the governing body of European football, to join our inaugural campaign is a huge honour.
"We hope UEFA's support will now encourage and inspire its 55 member associations to come on board and make unique pledges of their own to continue the momentum of change."
UEFA & women's football
Women's football has never been in a stronger position. The 2017 UEFA Women's EURO in the Netherlands saw a global cumulative live audience of 178 million viewers watching the tournament, while a total of 240,045 spectators beat the previous record of 216,888 at the 2013 finals in Sweden.
Players such as Ada Hegerberg, Lieke Martens and Pernille Harder have become global stars in their own right and role models to young girls across Europe and beyond.
In order to ensure that young girls have the opportunity to emulate their idols, in June 2017 UEFA launched the #WePlayStrong campaign. The initiative is aimed at transforming perceptions of women's football and encouraging girls to take up and continue playing the sport. In order to achieve this, UEFA is working closely with its 55 member associations to ensure that football is the number one sport for women across Europe by 2020.
"This game has so much to look forward to, so much potential to unleash, so much value to offer to football and society," says Nadine Kessler, UEFA's head of women's football. "I cannot stress enough how committed we are to make an impact for the good of the game.
"The players, the coaches, the fans, as well as the administrators working hard behind the scenes – all deserve to be championed. The pace of this sport's growth is impressive, and our increasing investments clearly show how dedicated we are to accelerating this pace. We are getting ready to take on the next challenges and reach new heights. I'm convinced we will do so."
Without proper coaching, it is difficult for players of any age or ability to reach their full potential. This is why UEFA is determined to increase the number of qualified females through its Women's Coach Development Project.
"If we want to improve our football then we need to be producing good coaches," said Netherlands women's head coach Sarina Wiegman. "Good coaches help with personal development, as well as helping them to develop as players."
It is not just on the pitch that UEFA is looking to make a difference. The UEFA Women's Football Leadership Programme aims to help women develop their self-awareness and identify their path towards decision-making roles within football, while also providing a platform for likeminded women to share and exchange ideas and experiences.
UEFA is committed to championing women's football and providing all the necessary support, and also giving opportunities and access for women both on and off the pitch. It is vital those who are just starting out in their careers, or others who are already heavily involved in football, receive all the assistance they can to continue playing and enjoying the game they love.