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UEFA European Women's Championship June 5-19 in North West England
Euro 2004 is gripping the nation and it won't end come July 2nd as it is only a year to go until England welcomes the next prestigious European football Finals. Just a year to go on Saturday and it will be National Women's Coach Hope Powell's England women's team walking out in the North West of England for the opening game of Euro 2005 as the FA hosts its first ever major women's tournament.
The sixth UEFA European Women's Championship will kick-off on Sunday June 5th 2005. England have qualified automatically for the tournament and with women's playing figures toping the 100,000 mark in the past season, it's perfect timing for the Football Association to showcase the women's game across the nation. Football is now the biggest female sport in England and this Championship could turn players like captain Faye White and star striker Kelly Smith into household names.
The FA's Director of Football Development Trevor Brooking said: "Staging a major tournament will give The FA a great opportunity to tell young girls about their opportunities to play football and we expect that participation levels will increase again as a result of this tournament. Having the games live on TV will also be a good showcase of how the England players can be role models for future generations."
Plans for the tournament are already underway at the FA. The two week long event, taking place from June 5-19, will be held in the North West of England - an area of strong heritage for football in general and women's football in particular. In the 1920s, 'Dick, Kerr Ladies' - a team of female factory workers from Preston, Lancashire - played to audiences of 50,000 in charity matches across the North West.
World champions Germany, runners-up Sweden and France have already qualified for the tournament, while scores of other nations are currently battling it out in qualifying groups to be one of seven countries to join England, who qualify automatically for the event as hosts.
Tournament Director Andrew Halstead added: "The Football Association intends to make England 2005 the most successful European Women's Championship to date. We have exciting plans to engage football fans throughout Europe to ensure as many people have the opportunity to watch this tournament as possible. We will use the Finals to tell fans about the growing game in England and we hope our national team will do the country proud in the first senior tournament to be held in England since Euro '96."
With no other football events staged in England at this time, June 2005 will provide a perfect opportunity to showcase the women's game to a big audience. It is expected that the venues for the tournament will be announced in September and the promotional campaign will be launched to attract the biggest ever live audience to watch women's football here.
The eight competing teams will be drawn into two separate groups in January 2005 with the top two teams going through to the semi finals. The opening game will take place on Sunday 5th June with the Final being played two weeks later on Sunday 19th June.
Chairman of The Football Association, Geoff Thompson said: "It is a great honour for The Football Association to be hosting such a prestigious tournament. Women's Football is the fastest growing sport and also the top female sport in England, and The FA is delighted to show our commitment to the women's game by hosting this event."
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, The Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP added, "Euro 2005 could be a showcase event for us. Television coverage is one way of giving Euro 2005 profile and another is to get kids across the country to want to come along to matches. I think it's guaranteed that levels of participation will reach another peak as a result of that tournament. We are keen to work with the Football Association to ensure that the game offers every girl an opportunity to remain fit and to develop a positive attitude towards her appearance. Where Bend it Like Beckham leads, let's have loads of girls following."
England National Women's Coach, Hope Powell OBE commented: "It's great to have qualified without having kicked a ball! It gives us the opportunity once again to compete on the top European stage, which is where we should be. I've played in Euro finals before and there's such a great buzz about playing competitively against the best players in the world. It's going to be a fantastic tournament where we can showcase women's football to a big audience in England and beyond."
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