Women’s Euro Stadium Choices ‘Disrespectful to Women’s Football’

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir fyrirliði landsliðs Íslands í fótbolta

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, the captain of Iceland’s national women’s football team, had strong words this week for the stadiums that have been chosen for the women’s European Championship, which will take place in England this summer, ESPN reports. The choice of several low-capacity arenas are “embarrassing,” Sara Björk remarked, and “not the respect we deserve. They haven’t prepared for the fact that we can sell more than 4,000, it is disrespectful to women’s football.”

Sara Björk made the remarks while speaking to the podcast Their Pitch and was particularly referring to the 5,000-seat Manchester City Academy stadium, where two of Iceland’s games will be played. “I am disappointed with the arenas we have been given,” she said. “It is shocking—we play a tournament in England with several large arenas, and we get to play at a training facility that takes around 5,000 spectators.”

A Euro 2022 spokesperson responded to Sara Björk’s critiques saying, “Manchester City Academy is not a training ground. It is the official home stadium of Manchester City Women’s Football Club…We believe that with two of the biggest football stadiums in England [Old Trafford and Wembley], four venues with a capacity of 30,000 or more, two venues over 10,000 and two stadiums under 10,000, the right mix of stadiums has been chosen to provide the tournament with a platform to fulfil its potential.”

FA’s stadium choices ‘felt hugely unambitious then and looks almost ludicrously low-key now,’ says Guardian football writer

In a piece for The Guardian, however, football writer Suzanne Wrack called Sara Björk’s frustrations “understandable,” saying “her remarks highlighted a number of important questions, chiefly among them whether the Football Association was ambitious enough in its choice of venues and whether it has done enough to adapt to the accelerating growth of the game? Arguably, the answer to both questions is no.”

Wrack goes on to point out that while women’s football, and the public’s interest in it, was in a much different place four years ago when England’s Football Association (FA) made its bid to host the tournament, “the signs of potentially rapid growth were already there and were either overlooked, ignored or woefully underestimated.” She continued by saying that “[i]t was, and always has been, clear that major international competitions qualitatively impact the growth of the women’s game.” Preceded then as it was by the launching of the Women’s Super League as a full-time professional league in 2018, the 2019 World Cup, and a broader, stated goal of doubling the fanbase by 2020, the FA’s choice of stadiums “felt hugely unambitious then and looks almost ludicrously low-key now.”

‘They should 100% reconsider’

Responding to the FA’s claim that they’ve chosen “the right mix of stadiums…to provide the tournament with a platform to fulfil its potential,” Sara Björk noted that both of Iceland’s matches at the academy have already sold out, and she believes that these sales, as well as sell-outs across the group phases, speak for themselves.

“But matches will be played in larger arenas that I’m sure will sell out,” she continued. “Women’s football explodes, and you start to get the respect you deserve. It’s getting better—more money is being pumped in now and it’s going in the right direction. But there are still things that need to improve.”

“They should 100% reconsider [changing the stadiums],” Sara Björk concluded. “Because if you look at the reactions and how many people buy tickets and how popular it has become, then you have to reconsider.”

The Women’s Euro 2022 will be held from July 6 – 31; Iceland will play July 10 (vs. Belgium); July 14 (vs Italy); and July 18 (vs France). You can listen to Sara Björk’s full interview with Their Pitch (in English) here.

Icelandic Football Team Qualifies for Euro 2022

Iceland’s National Women’s Football Team has qualified for the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro. The team ensured their place in the European tournament with a 1-0 win over Hungary on Tuesday.

The Icelandic team finished the qualifying tournament with a score of 19, landing them in second place in their group, behind Sweden. Teams were separated into nine groups in the qualifiers, with the team in the top spot of each group automatically qualified for the championship. In addition, three second-place teams qualify for the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro, and the Icelandic team had to rely on other match results to ensure their spot. Luckily, in the end, their performance ensured them the chance to compete in the 2022 tournament.

“It would have been fun to celebrate after the game today, but it is a crazy feeling to have secured our place at the European Championships,” National Team midfielder Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir told RÚV. “We had an incredibly strong team in this qualifier. We were well prepared for the 2017 Euros but I personally did not feel we had a good tournament. We were not able to show what we had in us and now we have the opportunity. The group has gotten stronger and strong players have joined the group.”

Sara Björk won the UEFA European Champion’s League this year with her team Olympique Lyonnais, becoming the first Icelander to do so.

The 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro will take place in England.

Women’s National Football Team Wins First Euro ’21 Qualifier

Iceland’s national women’s football team won their first qualifying match for the 2021 European Championships against Hungary, RÚV reports, with a final score of 4-1.

Hopes were high for the squad when the game began at Laugardalsvöllur stadium on Thursday night. Energy was high from kickoff and the Icelandic team had many good opportunities early on. Elín Metta Jensen gave the team their first goal in the 9th minute after a cross from Hallbera Gísladóttir.

The Hungarian squad evened the score with a goal in the 41st minute, but the Icelandic team came back fighting after half time. Hlín Eiríksdóttir scored again in the 59th minute, followed by Dagný Brynjarsdóttir in the 64th. Elín Metta then capped off an excellent game by scoring again in extra time.

The Iceland women’s national team will match up against Slovakia on September 2, and then France on October 4.

Iceland Loses World Cup Qualifier Against Germany

The Icelandic women’s football team lost their World Cup qualifying match against Germany on Saturday, with a final score of 2 – 0, RÚV reports. If the team is going to have a shot at qualifying for their first World Cup ever, then, it’s imperative they win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

Iceland went into the match at the top of Group 5, with 16 points. Germany was ranked second in the group with 15 points. Had Iceland won, they could have been certain of a direct qualification. Only the group winners will go directly through to the next round, while the four best-ranked teams from the European qualifiers will have to go through additional playoffs.

Iceland started their sold-out homefield match looking strong, keeping the pressure on their opponents and preventing them from seeing much of the ball. As the first half progressed, Germany slowly won more possession but Iceland’s defense remained strong until the 42nd minute, when Svenja Huth scored. The first half ended 0 – 1, Germany.

Germany came out looking much stronger at the start of the second half, while Iceland had trouble keeping possession of the ball or making any goal opportunities for themselves. Svenja Huth then scored a second goal in the 74th minute. The final score was 0 – 2, Germany. The result puts Germany in first place in Group 5, with 18 points, while Iceland falls to second place with 16.

Germany’s last group match will be against the Faroe Islands, a game they are expected to win easily. As such, they will almost definitely go straight through to the next round. If Iceland wants a chance at the play-offs, then, they have to win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

Iceland’s Women One Win from World Cup

Tickets for the Icelandic women’s national football team match against Germany are nearly sold out, RÚV reports. The match takes place this Saturday at Laugardalsvöllur in Reykjavík. A victory would send the women’s team to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France next year.

It would be the first ever World Cup tournament for Iceland’s women’s team, which has never before qualified. The team, currently ranked 19th in the world, won their first qualifying match against the German team. Hopes will undoubtedly be high on the pitch this Saturday.

If the match could set another record if it sells out, as the team has never sold out a match at the Reykjavík stadium before. Tickets can be bought here.