Euro 2022: how England became a stronghold of women’s football

Whatever the outcome of the first semi-final between England and Sweden, this Tuesday July 26 (9 p.m.) in Sheffield (United Kingdom), the Women’s Football Euro organized this year on English lawns will mark certainly a victory for the host country. From its first matches spent to crush Norway (8-0) or Northern Ireland (5-0), until a possible final in the mythical enclosure of Wembley (90,000 seats), Sunday July 31, the “Lionesses” have always sold out at this European Championship.

A sign that in the country where modern football was born, supporters only ask to live to the rhythm of the round ball, whether it is led on the field by a man or a woman. Never deprived of emotion by the first, in club as in selection, where the players had reached the final of the last men’s Euro a year ago, the fans have long been chomping at the bit when it comes to women’s football.

The fault, in part, of the Football Association (FA), the English football federation, which prohibited women from practicing this sport considered dangerous for their health, from the 1920s until the 1970s. And despite a first Women’s Euro at low resonance organized on English soil in the summer of 2005, the discipline is left in the lurch by the institutions, which regard it above all as an adjustment variable when concluding budgets. Already alerted by the good results of its selection at the 2015 World Cup, finished in third place, the federation changes foot when the award of Euro 2021 looms (finally postponed to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic) , which she will pocket.

Major reform of the national championship

A major reform was launched five years ago, “which mainly concerns the development of Women’s Super League (WSL), the English national championship, notes sports economist Luc Arrondel, a specialist in women’s football. A championship had been present since the 1990s and had become a little more structured in a semi-professional way from 2011, but it was disputed in the summer period, therefore with very little visibility. » The 2017 growth plan begins the process of professionalisation: independent governance of women’s football is established at the FA and the twelve clubs which are granted a professional license must pay their players at least sixteen hours a week and acquire of a women’s section for their training centre.

The vast majority of clubs rely on the facilities of their men’s section, which most often play in the Premier League, the English first division, although the women have their own stadium. “We have two assistants, a mental coach (…), two physiotherapists, a masseur, a doctor. The staffs are a little wider (just in France) and then, in terms of infrastructure, we are in a huge center. We have three gyms, an indoor synthetic pitch. It’s England, what! », recently enthused French international Kenza Dali, today at Everton after moving to Londoners West Ham, quoted by Agence France-Presse.

The reform also concerned the very form of the championship, where the number of clubs relegated to the lower level at the end of the season was reduced. “The WSL is more closed, which has brought more stability for the clubs and strengthened their competitiveness”, notes Luc Arrondel, especially, he specifies, that “The players of the English national team receive a significant income to remain playing in the English championship” and that foreign players have had more difficulty settling in the United Kingdom since Brexit, thus favoring the emergence of young English talent.

Growing attendance, flooding sponsors

While the level of play has logically progressed, crowds have followed in the stadiums, filled on average with a few thousand supporters before the start of the health crisis. A push that prompted the influx of sponsors and the arrival for three years of broadcasters such as the Sky Sports channel and the BBC, for the record sum of 8.1 million euros since the start of the 2021 school year, three times higher than the rights television stations of the French first division. “Contrary to what is usually practiced, this media coverage and these cash inflows are the consequence of an almost political reform of English football”, emphasizes Luc Arrondel.

With the European Championship, English football intends to strengthen its self-sufficiency for the coming seasons. Our objective is twofold: to organize a record tournament and leave a tangible legacy to develop women’s football.”advanced ahead of the event Sue Campbell, director of women’s football at the English federation, in remarks taken up by the British daily The Guardian. The Euro, like every major competition, could in particular promote an additional jump in vocations, and would make it possible to retain the public across the Channel for good. The condition for the progress of English women’s football to be reflected next season at club level on the European scene, still in difficulty on their side against their French, Spanish or German neighbors.



Tour de France: Michael Matthews wins the 14th stage

Two days the same scenario. Like the previous one, the 14e stage of the Tour de France between Saint-Étienne and Mende returned to the strongest of the breakaway. Present throughout the afternoon at the heart of a breakaway of 23 riders, Michael Matthews quickly appeared as the strongest of the group.

50 km from the finish, it was the Australian who accelerated to create a quartet in the lead. At the foot of the Côte de la Croix-Neuve, the last difficulty (2.9 km at more than 10%) and judge of the peace of the stage, it was he again who let go of his companions. The Italian Alberto Bettiol joined him well in the “Jalabert climb”, and even a time slightly behind. But with a final thrust, Michael Matthews got the better of his competitor, and won alone at the Mende aerodrome.

New duel between Pogacar and Vingegaard

Finishing more than twelve minutes behind him, the favorites of the Tour also explained themselves in the Côte de la Croix-Neuve. Already turbulent at the start of the stage, the second overall and double title holder Tadej Pogacar did not manage to get away from the yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard; the two taking a little more distance from the other leaders.

In the general classification, Louis Meintjes, the best ranked of the 23 breakaways, achieved the breakthrough of the day. The South African passes from the 13e at the 7e place, now less than five minutes behind Jonas Vingegaard. The Dane still dominates two former Tour winners, Tadej Pogacar and Geraint Thomas, by more than two minutes.

Calvary by Caleb Ewan

The French Romain Bardet (4e) and David Gaudu (8e) are firmly in the top-10, more than four minutes away. The green jersey seems definitively acquired by the Belgian Wout Van Aert, more precarious, the polka dot tunic remains on the German Simon Geschke.

Far, very far from the breakaway and even from the whole peloton, Caleb Ewan crossed the line more than 39 minutes behind Michael Matthews. The pocket sprinter, winner of five stages in the Tour de France, was unclamped from the first kilometers, in pain after his fall on Friday in a bend. Alone and without the help of three team members, who volunteered to accompany him for a good part of the 192 km of the day, the Australian would not even have reached the finish on time on Saturday.



Tour de France 2021, a peloton with three strong heads

The Tour de France in times of pandemic, bis. To kick off this 108e edition, the organizers escaped the near closed session in Nice last year, but the virus still lurks. It will be necessary to show a white leg, more exactly a sanitary pass, to attend the departures and arrivals of the four Breton stages of this Great Loop, whose peloton sets off on Saturday 26 June from Brest. Gauges will be set for the public depending on the configuration of the sites.

Outside of these areas, nothing will prevent spectators from congregating on the side of the roads. They will be able to see ogres with sixteen legs and eight heads, cut to devour the general classification raw. Financially speaking, with a budget of around 50 million euros, the most impressive of these scarecrows wears the colors of Ineos Grenadiers, the ex-Sky of Chris Froome.

After having feasted on the Champs-Élysées on seven occasions since 2012, the British formation was satisfied with crumbs in 2020, in any case in view of its usual appetite. She wants to resume her place at the great summer cycling banquet, the first. Froome changed his tunic? Egan Bernal, winner in 2019, is absent? Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe still has the means to line up an armada.

“The Ineos are not alone”

The winner of the Tour de France 2018, the Welshman Geraint Thomas, will be flanked by the winners of the Tours of Italy 2019 and 2020, respectively the Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz and the Briton Tao Geoghegan Hart, and the third of the Tour 2020, the Australian Richie Door. “But the Ineos are not alone”, moderates Sébastien Hinault, sports director of Arkéa-Samsic. “There are other big teams”, continues Yvon Madiot, his counterpart from Groupama-FDJ.

The other ogre is called Jumbo-Visma, whose sporting rise has gone hand in hand with his financial rise. “She has an impressive collective power”, notes Vincent Lavenu, manager of AG2R-Citroën. The Dutch team should have already brought the yellow jersey back to Paris last year, if its Slovenian leader Primoz Roglic had not cracked. in extremis against his compatriot Tadej Pogacar.

For his part, the surprise winner of 2020 saw the funders of the UAE Team Emirates also draw on their reserves to add a heavy reinforcement to him in the person of the Polish Rafal Majka. “We must not forget Movistar either”, adds Julien Jurdie, sporting director of AG2R-Citroën, in reference to the Spanish squad of Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez.

For the French, stage victories

This distribution of forces may herald a less boring race than in the heyday of the Sky. “It’s going to be a nice Tour, I think”, says Vincent Lavenu. Faced with these mega-powers, the French teams will aim above all for stage victories, like the Cofidis whose leader Guillaume Martin, 11e and best French in 2020, announced that he wanted to “Focus” on the successes of a day. “It is difficult to imagine a Frenchman on the podium”, continues the manager of AG2R-Citroën.

His own team saw Romain Bardet leave in the offseason, usual candidate for this podium and absent this year. Ambitions and strategy have been adjusted. “Before, we had to channel our energies in the service of Romain, recalls Julien Jurdie. The, we won’t let many getaways go without us. “ Deprived of Thibaut Pinot, still handicapped by back pain, Groupama-FDJ will follow the same logic. “The ideal would be for the three or four big teams to mark each other up close, then it’s up to us to take advantage of the opportunities”, says Yvon Madiot.

→ EXPLANATION. Tour de France: how is the route determined?

The Arkéa-Samsic, who will be racing at home in Brittany, could be the first to try their luck. “We will inevitably want to show ourselves”, announces Sébastien Hinault. Envy must also tickle Julian Alaphilippe. The rugged layout of the first two Armorican stages is ideally suited to his puncher temperament. Afterwards, who knows? In this Tour less mountainous than others, the rider of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team remains the Frenchman best placed to try to shake up the Ineos-Jumbo-EAU triumvirate.



Euro 2021 football: strong like the Turks of LOSC

The soldiers of Hadopi, the High Authority for the dissemination of works and the protection of rights on the Internet, responsible for tracking down Internet pirates, will have work in the north of France, this Wednesday, June 16. A lot of LOSC supporters will undoubtedly try to follow the Wales-Turkey match at 6 p.m., without being subscribed to the encrypted BeIN Sports channel.

It is that one does not joke with the Turkish football in a region which adopted three players of this country having played a big role in the title of champion of France of Lille: Burak Yilmaz, Mehmet Zeki Celik and Yusuf Yazici.

→ PRACTICAL. Euro 2021: curfew, fan-zones, bars… How to follow the matches?

Lille supporters, like members of the Turkish community in France, had to suffer on Friday June 11 in front of TF1, in clear this time, seeing these players curled up in defense to avoid being corrected too severely in front of Europe. soccer.

The three Lille have for once found themselves in the same zone of play, in defense, while two evolve in principle in front. Burak Yilmaz was one of the gunners in Ligue 1 this season and Yusuf Yazici is an attacking midfielder. Only defender Mehmet Zeki Celik was in his place on the left flank of a defense that quickly cracked under the blows of a very offensive Italy team.

They appreciate the political neutrality of French football

This defender was the first of the gang of three to have signed in the North, in 2018, to revive himself in an ambitious club after a start to his career bogged down in the Turkish second division. This is where the ex-sporting director of LOSC, Luis Campos, who shaped the French champion squad, came to get him. As he came to fish the other two who were also looking for a second wind. They were won over by the sporting project but also by the calm of Lille, which contrasts with the hustle and bustle of football in their native country.

The famous pass of arms last fall between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emmanuel Macron, the first having questioned the “mental health” of the second, had disturbed the serenity of the Lille Turks. But Burak Yilmaz, as explosive on the field as posed in an interview, had kicked intelligently in touch when he was questioned on the issue on the sidelines of a Ligue 1 match.

“I am very proud that the Turks love LOSC and continue to love it. It is an advantage for the follow-up of our team and a particular emotion ”, he had declared, satisfying with a sentence the three parties concerned, the French, the Turks of France and their compatriots remained in the country.

Open table with the families of Roubaix

The three players put Lille on the European map for the residents of the Bosphorus. They are particularly popular in Roubaix, thanks to Ibrahim Alci, the president of the Franco-Turkish associations in France. He particularly watches over two youngsters, because the Turks of Lille are not three but in reality five.

→ REPORT. France dominates Germany with a burning Pogba and an iron defense

The LOSC also hired Mustapha Kapi (18 years old), who arrived at the club in September 2020 from Galatasaray, and Ferhat Cogalan (18 years old), the most local of the gang, since he was born in Grande-Synthe, in the North.

No one can predict their long-term fate in the club now champion of France, whose future will be written in Turkish for a few more years, depending on current and future contracts. But Lille has become a popular destination for the best players and their agents are currently the seat of northern leaders.



Football: Champions League, reform of the strongest

Barcelona-PSG is the major duel of the knockout stages of the Champions League which begins this Tuesday, February 16. The sixth confrontation in sixteen years, but with an epic memory during the last meeting in March 2017: the incredible “remountada” of the Catalan club (6-1 after losing 0-4 in the first leg). Even without Neymar and Angel Di Maria, the injured PSG stars, the poster is enticing.

And it is this kind of spectacle that UEFA intends to increase by 2024. Next month, the governing body of European football should have its members vote on a reform of the Champions League which subscribes to the always more matches, and therefore hard cash. A motivation that does not come out of nowhere. This reform is only the latest avatar of a desire marked for twenty years by the giants of continental football: to limit sporting uncertainty and to ensure as many benefits as possible.

Under the threat of a “Superleague”

Their ideal, expressed at the end of the 1990s? A “Superleague” private and closed, where the big clubs of the flagship nations would meet together to run their small value shop. Juventus of Turin, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Manchester United are the most fervent supporters of this formula. Its promoters will agitate it over the years under the nose of a UEFA fearing to see itself stripped of its authority and its treasure.

→ READ. Champions League: reform too much?

To avoid schism, UEFA will thus regularly reform its Champions League, in 2003, 2008, 2016, and always in the same direction, by favoring the big clubs. The 2024 reform was initially supposed to confirm the trend. At the start of 2019, the project increased the number of group matches from 96 to 224, and guaranteed 24 of the 32 teams the right to automatically participate in the competition the following year. In other words, almost a closed league.

An outcry from the national leagues, who feared for the interest of their championships, prompted UEFA to review its copy. But for the big clubs, it was about not letting the pressure drop. The pandemic in 2020 reinforced their determination. Faced with the losses recorded, the football giants must ensure their rear.

So here they are reactivating their Superleague. In the fall of 2020, their project “leaked” to the Anglo-Saxon press. A championship with 20 clubs, including 15 permanent and 5 guests, and a jackpot of 350 million euros guaranteed for the first six, 2.5 times more than what the Champions League offers today to its finalists.

→ ANALYSIS. When the camera spoils the sporting spectacle

Faced with the threat, the football authorities take out the cannon. For the first time, the International Federation (Fifa) and its constituent confederations, including UEFA, react together “Following recent speculations relayed by the media”. In a press release published on January 21, 2021, they emphasize that any club or player playing in the Superleague “Would be refused the right to participate in any competition organized by Fifa or its confederation”.

The national championships also jostled

The stick on one side, but the carrot on the other. The revised formula of the reform of the Champions League (read below), by multiplying the matches (180 instead of 96 in the first phase) and by providing for the possibility for some clubs of a repechage according to their points UEFA accumulated and not thanks to their national ranking, undermines the traditional idea of ​​equity and sporting meritocracy. The sidelining of the Superleague is well worth a few concessions.

How far ? This is one of the questions that remain. The multiplication of European matches will inevitably have repercussions on the national championships. No wonder then to see also emerging projects to reduce the number of clubs in national leagues and lighten the calendars.

With the cake of its television rights trimmed by the Mediapro affair, the French Ligue 1 is considering going from 20 to 18 or 16 clubs. In England, a project “Big Picture” a move from the Premier League to 18 clubs has recently come out of the woods. It is worn by the American Fenway Sports Group, owner of Liverpool, and supported by the wealthy Glazer family who own Manchester United.

The movement has also been encouraged for more than a year by Andrea Agnelli, the president of Juventus and the European Club Association (ECA), a fervent supporter of the Superleague. “We must offer young people exciting competitions”, he defended at the end of January. And that, of course, is a big business.

A “plus” formula

The new formula of the Champions League should concern more clubs: 36 against 32 today. They would no longer be divided into groups but united in a sort of incomplete championship, each team playing ten games against ten different teams (five at home, five away). This first phase therefore has more matches (180 against 96 today).

The first 8 in the standings are qualified in the round of 16 where they join the winners of the qualifiers organized between those finishing between the 9e and 24e square. This formula also ensures more French clubs, France winning a qualifier with three starting clubs automatically, plus one having to go through the preliminary round.