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Iceland captain calls European Championship venues ‘embarassing’

(Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Iceland captain and Lyon midfielder Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir is unhappy with some of the stadium selections for the UEFA Women’s European Championship in England this summer, calling them “shocking” and “embarrassing.”

The venues’ capacities range from Manchester City Academy Stadium, which can hold 4,700 for the Euros, to Wembley, which can hold more than 90,000. The final at Wembley has already sold out.

Two of Iceland’s group stage matches will take place at the City field, which is home to the women’s team. Both have already sold out, as have six other matches in the tournament – including all of England’s group stage matches.

“I am disappointed with the arenas we have been given. It is shocking — we play a tournament in England with several large arenas, and we get to play at a training facility that takes around 5,000 spectators,” Gunnarsdóttir said on the podcast “Their Pitch.”

“It is just embarrassing and it is not the respect we deserve. They haven’t prepared for the fact that we can sell more than 4,000, it is disrespectful to women’s football.”

In response to the comments, a spokesperson for Euro 2022 said that the Academy stadium “is not a training ground.”

“It is the official home stadium of Manchester City Women’s Football Club,” the spokesperson said. “It has been used previously for UEFA Women’s Champions League fixtures and will generate a great atmosphere worthy of a Women’s Euro.

“We believe that with two of the biggest football stadiums in England [Old Trafford and Wembley], four venues with a capacity of 30,000 or more, two venues over 10,000 and two stadiums under 10,000, the right mix of stadiums has been chosen to provide the tournament with a platform to fulfill its potential.”

Gunnarsdóttir, who has played for Iceland since 2007, said that the smaller stadiums signal a “step back” for women’s soccer and that the organizers should consider upgrading some of the stadiums in the group stages.

“Women’s football takes two steps in the right direction, but then things like this happen and then you take a step back,” Gunnarsdóttir added.

“But matches will be played in larger arenas that I’m sure will sell out. Women’s football explodes and you start to get the respect you deserve. It’s getting better — more money is being pumped in now and it’s going in the right direction. But there are still things that need to improve.

“They should 100% reconsider [changing the stadiums]. Because if you look at the reactions and how many people buy tickets and how popular it has become, then you have to reconsider.”