Women's Champions League: What does it mean for Scotland?

By Andrew SouthwickBBC Scotland
'Clubs will need to adapt' - Rachel Corsie on Women's Champions League revamp

Uefa have announced a revamped Women's Champions League from the 2021-22 season, which promises more exposure, a new group stage and preliminary mini-tournaments.

Much like the men's competition, Uefa are aiming for more entrants from the top leagues and more revenue.

Glasgow City have reached the quarter-finals of this season's tournament, but are they and others from Scotland about to get squeezed out in favour of clubs from bigger nations?

BBC Scotland runs the rule over whether it should be welcomed or feared by our clubs.

What's wrong with the current format?

Not enough big games. Giants such as Manchester United and Real Madrid now have women's teams, but are nowhere to be seen in the Champions League. Likewise, the big clubs who do qualify get a bye to the last 32 and then play knockout games, meaning a lack of glamour fixtures.

This season the top 12 leagues had two entrants each, which included the Scottish Women's Premier League which was ranked 11th. With Scotland having now fallen to 15th ahead of season 2020-21, only league winners Glasgow City will be there.

At the moment, only the final is marketed by Uefa, with home sides responsible for all earlier rounds, something else that will change as Uefa bid to "boost the visibility" of the competition.

Uefa's head of women's football Nadine Kessler said: "We needed to work on both improving the competitiveness of the Women's Champions League and giving teams more guaranteed matches."

Previous Women's Champions League winners

'This will give women's football a massive boost'

Under the new format 74 teams will qualify. The top six leagues will have three entrants each, with champions from the top three of those nations reaching the group stage automatically.

Leagues ranked seventh to 16th will have two entrants, which at the moment would mean Scotland's top two would be among 60 teams split into a champions path and a league path, playing four-team mini-tournaments - with two semi-finals, a third-place play-off, and a final for each quartet.

Should Scotland's sides win through to the next stage, they face a two-legged play-off to reach the 16-team group stage.

"Four matchdays in the group stage and the two quarter-final legs will be scheduled for days when no other major competition matches take place," said Kessler. "These matches will be played on weekdays, either before or immediately after men's international matches. Exclusive exposure like this will give women's football a massive boost."

In addition, TV rights will now be centralised from the group stage onwards, with Uefa producing every game for TV or online streaming purposes. Sponsorship rights will be partially centralised for "Uefa women's football partners" from the group stage.

"It will provide a better platform for the competition's promotion, raising interest among the general public, media and commercial partners," said Kessler. "With these steps we expect to increase the revenues of the competition, however, financial details and the distribution model will be known closer to the start of the 2021-22 season."

Is it good or bad news for Scotland?

Glasgow City players celebrate against Brondby
Scotland's champions Glasgow City are in this season's quarter-finals after beating Brondby on penalties

This season, Hibs entered at the qualifying group stage, a four-team round-robin hosted by one club in every group. In Hibs' case this meant they spent eight days in Slovenia playing three games. They and nine other group winners made it to the knockout stage last 32, joining Glasgow City and 21 other teams who had received a bye.

While Hibs lost to Slavia Prague at that stage, Glasgow City saw off Chertanovo Moscow and Brondby to reach the quarter-finals, where they will face Wolfsburg in March and April.

But now the chances of seeing a Scottish side in Europe beyond Christmas, never mind the group stage, will become much more difficult. But Scotland captain Corsie, a former Glasgow City player, says the added competition should inspire clubs to raise their own standards.

"I think it's a positive change," Corsie told BBC Scotland. "The top leagues in the world are probably setting a different standard for the women's game and deservedly have earned that extra spot.

"The group stage mirroring the men's game - that's the type of framework that will probably be more interesting from a player's perspective. It's another forward move.

"It possibly makes it more challenging, but that's what you want. Something that is more challenging shouldn't be looked at as a negative thing, it should be looked as something that we can strive for.

"We'll have teams in the competition that can do as well as we've done in the past. Obviously Glasgow City, they're still in the competition this year round and they've proven they can compete.

"Clubs need to push themselves to the next level."