Lisa Fallon: Uefa’s new financial model is a game changer for women’s soccer

Real incentive for clubs and countries as governing body greatly increases funding

Ahead of what promises to be an epic final weekend of the Premier League, tomorrow evening, a defining women’s Uefa Champions League final takes place in Turin as Barcelona and Lyon go head to head.

Two powerhouses in women’s football will do battle in the home of Juventus, and the trophy is not the only prize worth winning.

This is the competition’s first season under the new financial model which was announced by Uefa last year.

Imagine the significance of an Irish team making the group stages of the women's Champions League under this model?

Under last year’s model, reaching the last 32 of the competition secured prize money of €70,000 for each qualifying team. This season, reaching the last 16 group stage secured €400,000 per team.

And depending on how results go in the group stage, up to €1.4million is on offer for the eventual winner.

This type of prize money is a game-changing one for the women’s game and must be a real incentive for clubs to fix their eyes on the prize.

Of even more significant value is the rise in solidarity prize money which is aimed at developing the game overall. This means the teams that participate in the leagues of those clubs that qualify for the Champions League get a share of the €5.6million pot.

Imagine the significance of an Irish team making the group stages of the women’s Champions League under this model?

Back in the 2011-12 Champions League, Peamount United, managed by Eileen Gleeson, became the first Irish team to qualify for the knockout stages of a European football competition and had to fundraise to cover their travel expenses to away games.

Getting back to this level has to be something that WNL clubs can aspire to. It’s a huge incentive for a club that has the right vision, strategy and investment in their women’s team.

And when you consider Uefa has also doubled the prize money for this summer’s women’s European Championships, it is a serious indicator the women’s game is not just growing in numbers participating, or numbers attending games, but now the financial numbers are going to a whole new level. It should continue in that same trajectory as the popularity and professionalism in the women’s game continues to grow.

Since the men’s Euros in 2008, Uefa has offered payments to clubs that provide the players that participate for their national teams in the European Championships.

Last September, a similar “club benefits programme” was approved for this summer’s Women’s Euro 2022 in England.

The payments will be made to European clubs whose players represent their country at the competition.

According to the Uefa website, “The total amount paid will be calculated according to the number of days that a player is released for the final tournament: this will cover 10 preparation days, the total number of days a player participates in the tournament, plus one additional travel day.

“Eligible clubs will be compensated at a rate of €500 per player per day, with payments distributed in October-December 2022. For each of its players taking part in the Women’s Euro, a club is guaranteed a minimum payment of €10,000.”

Every win in the group stages guarantees another €100,000 with €50,000 for a draw

It adds another layer of pain to the fact that the Republic of Ireland women’s national team narrowly missed out on qualification for this summer’s Euros, but is an incredible boost for Northern Ireland’s women’s clubs who will benefit hugely from Uefa’s decision.

The total prize money for the women’s Euros is about €16 million with all qualifying teams receiving €600,000, regardless of their results or performance in the competition.

It’s small money compared to men’s football but it will make a huge impact in the women’s game.

Every win in the group stages guarantees another €100,000 with €50,000 for a draw.

Quarter-finalists will receive an additional €205,000, semi-finalists get a further €320,000 and the winners get €660,000, with €420,000 for the runners-up, meaning a total prize amount of €2,085,000 for the overall winner, should they win all their group games.

Last weekend, an enthralling women’s FA Cup final was won by Chelsea with just £25,000 for the winners, while runners-up Manchester City received £15,000.

Next year the total competition prize money increases ten-fold to just over €3 million with important increases in payments to clubs in the earlier rounds, meaning more clubs benefit overall.

Tomorrow night in Turin will be another sell-out and another defining moment in the financial trajectory of the women’s game.