—- The European Club Association has welcomed UEFA’s decision to expand the Women’s Champions League with the incorporation of a group stage and centralised marketing.

The European federation’s executive committee decided to raise further the profile of the women’s club game from the 2021-22 season.

Clubs in rounds one and two will be split into champions (for domestic league winners) and league paths as they try to reach the new 16 team group stage. This new round will see four groups of four teams playing each other home and away, with the top two in each group progressing to quarter-final matches.

UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said: “This is a game changer for women’s football. The world’s best women’s club competition will get both the platform and visibility it deserves.

“By guaranteeing teams more matches against their elite rivals, we believe that the group structure will raise the quality of the women’s game even more.”

Jean-Michel Aulas, ECA chair of the women’s football committee and president of six-time UWCL winners Olympique Lyonnais, said: “Football is the world’s number one sport and fans are increasingly calling for the further development of the women’s game.

“The spotlight on women’s football has come about against the backdrop of growing and widespread commitment to gender equality in daily and professional life, not just in sports.

“The reforms to the Women’s Champions League are a huge step in the professionalisation of women’s club football.

“We, as clubs, are confident that more games of quality for the top women’s teams in Europe will help to develop the game and inspire the next generation of women’s footballers.”

** VAR will be used in the Euro 2020 qualifiers play-offs in March and in the 2022 European qualifiers for the World Cup.