Soccer

Marc Skinner calls for Women’s Champions League to be expanded

Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal side were beaten in the first round of Champions League qualifying (Steven Paston/PA)
Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal side were beaten in the first round of Champions League qualifying (Steven Paston/PA) Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal side were beaten in the first round of Champions League qualifying (Steven Paston/PA)

Manchester United manager Marc Skinner has clarified his comments around the Champions League qualifying format.

After finishing second in the Women’s Super League last season, United went through the competition’s qualifying rounds and were knocked out at the second hurdle on Wednesday night after being beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Paris St Germain.

Last year’s WSL winners Chelsea earned an automatic group spot, while third-placed Arsenal went into the qualifiers, where they were eliminated by Paris FC in the first round.

Skinner criticised the qualification rules post-match on Wednesday, suggesting it was “crazy” United played PSG in a qualifying round.

Manchester United were beaten in Paris
Manchester United were beaten in Paris Manchester United were beaten in Paris (David Davies/PA)

However, he moved to clear up his comments in a press conference on Friday, suggesting that the competition could be expanded.

Skinner said: “My comment was much more about the breadth and quality, I believe there is a need for more teams to be in this competition, and then you’ll see who is average and who isn’t.

“Who knows, we might have been average in a group stage, you don’t know that. If there was any offence taken then I’m sorry for that, but that’s not what I meant.

“What I meant, and I’ll be clear on it, was I think there should be a broader scope of teams and there should be more teams in this competition so that we can actually then see where the elite level lies within Europe.

“I still think that’s a bit cloudy because the reality is, if we were playing a team that are from – what people might believe- to be a league that doesn’t have the experience, then we don’t know until we’ve played those, we only ever play those teams in friendlies.

“If you really want the real quality from all of the European leagues to rise, then you’ve got to play them against each other, which I think now other teams are ready for.

“If you enter that stage and are getting through, then congratulations. We’re not there so we can talk about what that looks like, but they are there so congratulations to everyone who’s gone through.”

Jonas Eidevall
Jonas Eidevall Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal side were beaten in the first round of Champions League qualifying (Steven Paston/PA)

Chelsea are now the only WSL team left in the competition, and Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall believes that English teams need to improve.

He told a press conference: “We’re number four in Europe [in UEFA’s coefficient rankings]. We can’t say that’s anyone else’s problem except our own. We need to improve, English teams have not done well enough in Europe.

“The Conti Cup group that Manchester United are in now might be tougher than some Women’s Champions League groups. But [UEFA] need to grow all of women’s football in Europe – that’s really important. They can’t only take [WSL] opinions into account.”

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes believes the format should be looked at, but stressed that there should be no “sense of entitlement” in the competition.

“We have to respect the format. It’s been in place and it has evolved. We had to earn our place in the Champions League,” she told a press conference.

“Do we need to look at the format in light of the growth of the women’s game? Absolutely.

“There is a lot more investment across many leagues so perhaps we need to look at a format which is similar to the men’s competition, where there are larger groups from the off.

“We have to look at the smaller nations who deserve the right to be in it as much as any English team does.

“I have a history of losing in the early parts of Europe and you have to gain that experience and momentum, which takes time.

“What I don’t want to happen is that there is a sense of entitlement. It’s about time UEFA changes that (format), but we should not disrespect the format as it is because it takes away from teams like Paris FC, who have worked for a number of years to get in.”