Women's Champions League: Money worries for Britain's top sides

By Tony Leighton Women's football correspondent
Jess Fishlock, top scorer for Bristol Academy
Jess Fishlock's Bristol Academy side will face Russian team Energiya Voronezh

Bristol Academy and Glasgow City have financial fears as well as high hopes as they enter the knockout stages of the Uefa Women's Champions League along with Arsenal.

The Gunners, historically well backed by their parent club, are on a high as they travel to face Bobruichanka in Belarus for the first leg of their Round of 32 tie on Thursday.

The Women's Super League champions and FA Cup winners completed the domestic treble on Sunday, when they beat Birmingham City 4-1 in the Continental Cup final.

WSL rivals Bristol and Scottish champions Glasgow, both stand-alone clubs, are tempering their Euro dreams with the harsh reality of finding the cash to compete.

Each of the teams kicks off at home, also on Thursday, against Russia's Energiya Voronezh and Icelandic side Valur respectively.

And both British sides are finding it hard to come to terms with a significant drain on their financial resources as they look to progress.

The men's version of the Champions League is awash with money, but not so the women's as each club has found to their cost.

"Unlike WSL clubs such as Arsenal," explained Bristol chairman Simon Arnold, "we don't have any links with a men's club so we can't look in that direction for support."

Academy's cash flow will be helped by the players after they volunteered to forego appearance money and win bonuses for the two-legged tie.

"It's what Bristol Academy's about," said captain Corinne Yorston about what manager Mark Sampson called "a magnificent gesture".

"So many people are doing so much for the club," added the England international defender, "and we wanted to show our allegiance in these difficult circumstances."

Arnold said: "If we were to win both legs the players' gesture could save us up to £3,000, but even then we believe we'll be in the region of £10,000 down."

Bristol's debut European campaign season may be fraught by money worries, but they are nothing new to amateur club Glasgow City.

"Welcome to the Champions League!" is the response to Bristol's problems by City's general manager Laura Montgomery.

The five-time SPL champions have never before reached the knockout stages, but this is their fifth season in Euro competition.

Montgomery said: "Being in Europe cripples us financially - we have to beg, borrow and steal to make ends meet.

"Our first round group tournament this year (in Serbia) cost us £15,000 and now we're trying to fill an £8,000 shortfall for this tie."

Kim Little of Arsenal Ladies FC
Arsenal are on a high after recently completing an impressive treble

Despite the financial concerns both Glasgow and Bristol are keen to make progress in the competition.

City manager Eddie Wolecki Black said: "It's a fantastic achievement for an amateur team to reach the last 32, but we don't want it to end here.

"We've had Valur watched and we've analysed them, and they're a top team who'll make it very difficult for us.

"But we'll stick to our style of play and although we'll be seen as underdogs by most people, I believe we have a good chance of going through."

Bristol boss Sampson, whose team are using Bristol City's Ashton Gate for their home leg, is equally optimistic.

"We are anticipating the biggest crowd in our history," he said, "and hopefully that will lift the players on a massive night for the club.

"We're up against a team with loads of European experience, but we've got a lot of internationals in our team so the girls are used to big occasions.

"We don't know as much about our opponents as we'd like, but if our attitude and organisation are right we can put ourselves in a good position for the second leg."

Academy, who qualified for the Champions League as FA Cup runners-up, are - like Arsenal - entering the competition at the knockout stage.

The Gunners are heading into their 10th European campaign, having been champions in 2006/07 and semi-finalists last season.

Manager Laura Harvey said: "We've had a fantastic WSL season, but four days after that one's ended we're starting a new campaign and it's a tough ask for the girls.

"Our away form was poor in last season's Champions League, so we have to put that right straight away if we're going to give ourselves the best chance of going through."

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