Baroness Sue Campbell has conceded the Football Association could have chosen bigger venues for England’s Euro 2022 campaign, after the hosts’ three group matches were sold out by 20 April.
“That might be a learning we’d have to look at,” the FA’s head of women’s football said, when asked if England should be playing at Wembley or stadiums closer to that capacity. “I don’t want to sit here and say ‘we think we’ve done it all right’, because we can always learn from these things, but equally we also want a geographic spread,” she said. “Yes, we could have done it differently I guess but I think the most important thing for us is three full stadiums for England.”
England open the European Championship finals tournament at Old Trafford on 6 July, which has a capacity of 73,200, before playing their second and third group games at St Mary’s in Southampton and the Amex Stadium in Brighton, capacity 32,505 and 31,800 respectively.
“We’ve sold 450,000 tickets which is pretty much double what they sold in the Netherlands [Women’s Euro 2017],” she said. “The capacity put together in all of the stadiums is 725,000, probably in the end we will sell over a half a million, maybe a little more. So there is still capacity there.
“So it’s how you balance the England games which everybody wants to go to, with the reality that the other matches, however good they are, are not going to attract a full audience. So, did we get the balance right? We will look at it again, but you’ve got a big stadium opening it, you’ve got a big stadium closing it off … we think we’ve got the balance about right.”
The FA’s head of tournament delivery, Chris Bryant, also defended the decision to host games at Leigh Sports Village and Manchester City’s Academy Stadium, where the standing terraces behind the goals cannot be used because of Uefa regulations meaning the capacity in both grounds will be significantly reduced.
“Standing isn’t allowed in the Uefa tournament requirements,” Bryant said. “We are looking to cover those areas so you won’t see them as empty areas. That’s a tournament requirement, we need to respect that and we were aware of that when making the choice of this stadium as well. We’ll do the best we can in terms of look and feel but that’s the situation we’re in. It’s not something that’s gone unnoticed but it’s a tournament requirement that we need to follow.”