With the 2022 Women’s European Championship kicking off in England this week, it’s time to get to know the nine cities that will be playing host to matches this month, with a little help from those members of the England squad with local knowledge…
Manchester: Old Trafford, Academy Stadium, Wigan & Leigh
Where else to start but the city playing host to the opening game of the tournament? Manchester is famous for its football, with two of the world’s biggest clubs residing in the city.
The iconic but slightly ageing Old Trafford, home to Manchester United, will host England’s opening game against Austria on 6th July. The 73,000-capacity stadium is sold out for the tournament’s first match.
Just four miles away, Manchester City’s City Football Academy Stadium will host three group games from Group D, which comprises Belgium, Iceland, France and Italy.
The CFA will only hold 5,000 fans due to UEFA’s no-standing policy and the selection of the ground led to criticism from Iceland midfielder Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir, who said it didn’t “make sense”. She told the Their Pitch podcast: “I don’t know what’s going on in their heads or if they’re even following women’s football. Because if you would, it’s just common sense. Women’s football’s exploding, it’s getting so much better, and it’s just stupid to speak about it because it doesn’t even make sense.”
Gunnarsdottir is right in many ways; it’s a small size and the absence of standing means there will be a huge empty space behind each goal. Iceland’s games at the CFA have both sold out, which can’t be said for some of the other group games across the tournament. The capacity might be small but the atmosphere should at least be pulsating.
“The rivalry in Manchester is massive — everybody knows that,” says England’s resident Mancunian, and United forward, Ella Toone. “Obviously the stadiums are unbelievable, but I think the main thing in Manchester is the crowds and the people. I feel like Manchester United have the best fans in the world. And I always say that but just seeing the passion of football and supporting the club and the love for the club is just special in Manchester.”
A bit further afield, 14 miles away from the centre of Manchester, is Leigh — home to United’s women’s and youth teams. The venue — temporarily known as “Wigan and Leigh” in UEFA-speak — will host three games from Group C and a quarter-final. Leigh Sports Village will have the same issue as the CFA with standing areas behind both goals not being in use, which limits the stadium’s capacity to just over 8,000.
Manchester is the ultimate destination for any football fan — and not just because United and City are ever-present across the city. The National Football Museum in the centre of town is home to some unbelievable football relics and artefacts. From original equipment used by women’s teams in the 1900s, to inflatable unicorns from England men’s Euro 2020 team, the NFM has it all. They’re also putting on a special exhibition during the tournament showcasing the history of women’s football. Crossing the Line: the story of women’s football, chronicles the game’s early growth, the effects of the FA’s ban on the game in 1921 and its resurgence.
“I’m not really one for museums and stuff myself,” says Toone. “But the great thing about Manchester is that there’s so much to do and see — everyone will find something to do.
“I’m always out and about in the city, you can get some nice food. I really like steak. So I’m going to say go to Rosso (Rio Ferdinand’s restaurant) or go to Hawksmoor. Honestly, you’ll come to Manchester and there’s so much to do, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it because it’s the best place in the world.”
Jill Scott’s Boxx2Boxx coffee shop in the outskirts of the city is women’s football heritage. Opened last year, the hotspot has already become a destination for City and United players from both the men’s and women’s teams as well as football fans from around the world.
London: Wembley, Brentford Community Stadium
England’s capital city has much to offer, whether it’s football heritage and history, or arts, parks and food.
The city is home to a staggering 17 professional football clubs. Seven of those play in the Premier League, six in the Football League and four in the National League. Whether you want the luxury Premier League experience or a hearty portion of the more grassroots game, London is overflowing with football.
Football is embedded in the city’s arts and culture, too. The Football: Designing the Beautiful Game exhibition at the Design Museum in Kensington, west London, is a must-see for any football fan and there’s even a chance to take in some football-inspired theatre as Offside, a lyrical show detailing the history of the women’s game, is currently touring in and outside of the capital.
Wembley, England’s national stadium, will host the Women’s Euro 2022 final on 31 July in front of what could be the largest ever crowd for a women’s football match in England. More than 87,000 tickets have been sold for the game and it should surpass the 80,203 record that was set in 2012 when USA beat Japan in the gold medal match at the London Olympic Games.
The tournament attendance record for a final is 41,302 and was set back in 2013 when Germany defeated hosts Sweden.
The Brentford Community Stadium, home to Premier League side Brentford, will stage three games in Group B and a quarter-final.
The stadium only recently opened, making its debut for Brentford’s inaugural season in the Premier League and it has a capacity of over 17,000.
Arsenal defender Lotte Wubben-Moy grew up in Hackney, east London, and she’s our local expert for the capital city.
“There’s a hidden gem in the Tate Modern,” Wubben-Moy says. “If you go to the Blavatnik side of the building, you can go up to the 10th floor and you can see out across the city. You don’t have to go to the Shard or the Walkie Talkie building, you can see the city from there, which is really cool, and there’s a bit of culture.
“Cornelia Parker has an exhibition on at the Tate Britain — she’s a favourite of mine. Boxpark is always a good vibe. I like the Shoreditch one — the Wembley one always gets a bit rowdy.
“If we’re talking coffee shops, Pophams is great in east London/north London. My favourite park is Victoria Park, but there’s so many green spaces in London; St. James’s Park. Regent’s Park. Hyde Park. If you want to catch a tan before the game then you can go and chill in the park.”
South Yorkshire: New York Stadium and Bramall Lane
Rotherham United’s 12,000-seater New York Stadium will host three group games from Group D and a quarter-final.
Costing £20 million to build, the New York Stadium was erected on the site of a foundry that made the iconic fire hydrants of New York City and in homage to the history of the town — and as club chairman Tony Stewart put it “more than 150 years of Rotherham’s proud history of industry and enterprise” — the new stadium was named after the Big Apple.
The stadium first hosted women’s football back in 2016, when England played a Euros qualifier against Belgium in front of just under 11,000 fans. Since then, the Lionesses have returned to play other games in the city.
Famous for being home to much-loved TV personalities the Chuckle Brothers, Rotherham will be showcasing every aspect of women’s football this summer.
During the tournament, the city’s Clifton Park Museum will be hosting a special women’s football exhibition called Grass Roots To Glory — Our Story So Far, which charts the powerful and personal story of women’s football across Rotherham.
The town centre will also host a “Fan Party” (fan zone) during every match that takes place, with festivals, dance performances, music and food activities across the city centre.
On 16 and 17 July, the Women of the World Festival, which brings together women, girls, trans and non-binary people from across the world and UK, will be taking place in Clifton Park, with guest speakers, panels and community events.
Ten miles away, Yorkshire’s other host city will be staging four games as Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane will take in three games from Group C and one semi-final.
Sheffield is home to the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield FC, who were founded in 1857, as well as two powerhouses when it comes to the history of the game in United and Sheffield Wednesday.
But the city is also famous for its culture, with the Crucible Theatre playing host to brilliant productions as well as the World Snooker Championship.
Arguably one of the city’s biggest contributions to pop culture is through music, with Pulp, Arctic Monkeys and feminist pop icon Self Esteem all hailing from the city. But there’s also one thing that has to be done in Sheffield, and that’s grabbing a bottle of Henderson’s Relish, the famous South Yorkshire condiment.
“Tamper Sellers Wheel would be my favourite (coffee) in the city centre,” says Manchester City keeper and Sheffield native Ellie Roebuck. “Bramall Lane is obviously a must see, too.”
What about some food or a typical Sheffield dish?
“Domo on Kelham Island is great, and you’ll need a good old Sunday roast while you’re there. Oh, and don’t forget a chip butty!”
Brighton: Falmer Stadium
Brighton & Hove Albion’s Falmer Stadium (also known as the Amex) will be hosting England’s second group game against Norway, Austria vs Norway and a quarter-final that could involve England if they win their group.
The city is one of England’s most popular tourist destinations and welcomes nearly 10 million visitors every year.
Its pebble beach and iconic pier, full of classic arcades and rides, are always bustling but it’s Brighton’s LGBTQ+ community and culture that make it such an exciting destination for the Women’s Euros.
Brighton’s history as the LGBTQ+ capital of the UK can be linked all the way back to the Napoleonic Wars, when an influx of soldiers to Brighton coincided with the first recorded LGBTQ+ history in the community.
It’s perfect that a women’s football tournament is taking place in the centre of Britain’s queer community. Women’s football has become a safe place for so many queer women, trans and non-binary people and so many of the sports stars have become proud activities and role models for the community.
Brighton & Hove Albion Women have also been thriving in recent years — under the stewardship of former England head coach Hope Powell, the team have become WSL mainstays. They also recently moved into new world-class training facilities, which will only continue the team’s thriving development.
As well as the successful men’s and women’s teams in the city, Brighton is an arts and culture hub, with an annual fringe festival and the Great Escape music showcase that run every year.
Southampton: St Mary’s Stadium
Along the south coast, Southampton will play host to England’s final group game against Northern Ireland and all of Northern Ireland’s group games in Group A.
England have recently played at the stadium, smashing North Macedonia 8-0 in September.
The hosting of these games comes as Southampton FC Women’s team have been surging up the women’s football pyramid. Led by manager and former Arsenal and England forward Marieanne Spacey, they have moved up from the fourth tier to the second in just a few seasons.
In 2021-22 they even reached the fifth round of the Women’s FA Cup, defeating Championship side Bristol City in front of a record crowd at St Mary’s on the way.
Southampton defender Laura Rafferty will be part of the Northern Ireland squad for the tournament and could feature in all of their group games at the club stadium.
The city will be hosting a series of events that celebrate art, heritage music and football throughout the tournament.
On 10 July, in Guildhall Square, in the Cultural Quarter of the city, fans will be able to see a unique art installation which forms part of the tournament’s arts programme. The installation has been designed by artist Emma Smith and inspired by historic footage of player’s warm-up moves.
Smith has been working with hundreds of local residents and football players across the tournament’s host cities, capturing their movements and transforming them into 11 holographic films that will be embedded in specially designed sculptures installed in locations across the host cities.
As well as being showcased in Southampton, the installation will be seen in Wigan & Leigh, Brighton, Rotherham, Sheffield, Milton Keynes and Wembley.
Milton Keynes: Stadium MK
“When people think of Milton Keynes, they think ‘roundabouts’,” says England captain Leah Williamson.
They are undeniably what the town is most famous for (there are 130 of them), along with the controversial inheritance of a football team in 2004, but now Milton Keynes will be hosting three Group B games and a semi-final.
The 30,000-seater Stadium MK is home to the Milton Keynes Dons. Although as a “new town” Milton Keynes does not have incredible heritage, they can point not only to Williamson as a footballing success story, but also Dele Alli and Ben Chilwell, too.
The town is one of the greenest in the UK with residents never more than half a mile from a park. There have also been 22 million trees planted in Milton Keynes since the 1960s.
“I really do like my town actually,” Williamson adds. “I would suggest Villa Lake if somebody was asking where was best to have a walk around. It would make for a nice day out.”