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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Women eye Euro club glory
BBC Sport's Sue Thearle
As England's women prepare for their last warm-up match before the European Championships, Sue Thearle looks even further afield to the prospect of European competition of a different kind.

Euro 2001 is just a month away and the countdown to Germany really gets underway this weekend.

Hope Powell's England meet Scotland at Bolton's Reebok Stadium in their last warm-up match before they head off to Germany.

The FA say that 5,000 tickets have already been distributed and the match is on course to set a new record for a friendly.

In anticipation of a big crowd, free buses are being provided from the town centre to the stadium.

Uefa are waiting to see how many clubs are interested and that will dictate the format
FA spokeswoman Katherine Knight

On the playing front, Kelly Smith will be a significant absentee.

The Philadelphia Charge striker is suffering from a stress fracture of the ankle and has been ordered to have a complete rest.

But she is still cautiously optimistic that she will be fit in time for Euro 2001.

Looking even further into the future - European club football is looming large on the horizon next season.

Uefa have plans to launch a European competition for women and Arsenal will be the English representatives after winning the Premier League.

"They asked us if we would be interested and we said yes," explained FA spokeswoman Katherine Knight.

"Then we decided that the winners of the Premier League would be offered the first invitation to take part.

"That was Arsenal and they are very keen on the idea. It is going to happen, but Uefa are waiting to see how many clubs are interested and that will dictate the format."

Kelly Smith
Smith has been told to rest her injured ankle
European football's governing body has decided that the competition will be split into two distinct sections.

Part one will take the form of a mini-tournament involving four teams at a time, who play each other over the course of a few days.

The winners would then qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition which would be played over two legs home and away.

"We've had interest from 34 countries so far," explained Uefa spokeswoman Outi Saarinen.

"And we are very pleased with the interest we've had. But we can't firm up numbers until all entries are received by the end of May.

That's when all the various national leagues are completed."

Saarinen admits that the ideal number of entrants would be 32. Then they could stage eight mini tournaments with the winners going through to the last eight.

The final is scheduled to take place next May.

"The mini tournament is something that happens regularly in international youth football," explained Saarinen.

It will certainly develop the interest in women's football in countries where the game is not so popular
Uefa spokeswoman Outi Saarinen

"It's also a cost efficient way of organising it so it makes sense. Teams would arrive at the hosts say on a Sunday, play two games on a Monday.

"Then they would have a rest day on the Tuesday, then two more games on a Wednesday and so on. It's very popular for the younger age groups."

But if more than 32 teams express an interest in the competition, then there will be qualifying rounds for teams from countries with the lowest ranking.

"I can tell you now that any English team wouldn't have to pre-qualify. That's because they've got one of the best co-efficient ratings in Europe.

"But we will know more about what we're doing when we know numbers. We're planning to have the draw during the European Championships in June.

"It will certainly develop the interest in women's football in countries where the game is not so popular.

"But it will also increase the sport's popularity in nations where it is already established. I'm sure there will be media interest too."

See also:

27 Apr 01 |  Football
FA watching American revolution
12 Apr 01 |  Football
Pettersen craves Fulham success
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