STAMFORD BRIDGE AWARDED WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SHOWPIECE
A new chapter in the long history of Stamford Bridge will be written in May when our stadium hosts the UEFA Women's Champions League Final.
The prestigious occasion will be on Thursday 23 May, two days before the men's Champions League Final at Wembley.
The tournament, originally named the UEFA Women's Cup, is 11 years old with 33 teams originally competing. Frankfurt won the inaugural competition with the final held over two legs.
It became the Women's Champions League in 2009/10 with the final becoming a single match. Lyon won the two previous tournaments with last year's final drawing more than 50,000 spectators to Munich's Olympiastadion.
This year 54 teams have been involved and following a qualification process, 32 made it through to the knockout stages which began in September.
Arsenal, who were winners in 2006/07, and Birmingham were England's two representatives with the London club still in the competition at the Round of 16 stage where they play a second leg against Turbine Potsdam from Germany tomorrow (Wednesday). Birmingham were knocked in the previous round by Verona.
Chelsea FC Chief Executive Ron Gourlay is delighted the club have been awarded the competition's deciding tie. He said: 'We are honoured that UEFA has chosen to bring the showpiece match of this prestigious women's football competition to Stamford Bridge.
'Women's football is now the most played sport for females in the country and the success of the Olympics and the Women's Super League means there is an even greater enthusiasm right across the country. We take women's football very seriously here at Chelsea Football Club, from grassroots right through to the senior level. We hope this final will inspire women and girls to take part in the game as well as our players to one day qualify for this elite European competition. We look forward to welcoming the best two teams in Europe to Stamford Bridge in May.'
Chelsea Ladies team manager Emma Hayes was part of the Arsenal side that lifted the trophy six seasons ago. She too has welcomed the news that Stamford Bridge will host the 2013 final.
'This is the biggest club competition in the world in the women's game and all players around the world aspire to play in it,' she says.
'The Arsenal team I was in were the first outside of Germany and Sweden to win it and it was probably the greatest day in women's football in this country in terms of achievement. From then on there was a real sense that the competition had great value to a growing women's sport.
'It would be fantastic for the women's game in this country if Arsenal could make it through to the final again this year. As Chelsea manager I am looking forward to the days when Chelsea will make it through to the final but in terms of increasingly awareness and bringing the fans out, I am sure we would see a full house here at Stamford Bridge.
'I will be bringing the Chelsea team to the final. We are trying to embed reaching this level into the culture of the club, and the club are fully behind our ambitions. We want the players to see and understand what it takes to get to this level so we are able to do that sooner rather than later.'
Chelsea club ambassador Graeme Le Saux added: 'I have been involved with UEFA over the last few years through Chelsea and independently and the amount of effort UEFA are putting in to raising the profile of the women's game is great to see. For Chelsea to be a part of it shows the support that the club is giving to the women's game, both on an international scale and also for our ladies team.
'It was at the final at Craven Cottage a couple of years ago when the men's final was at Wembley. I saw Potsdam take on Lyon and it was a really good, high-standard game and was very well-supported.
'Playing the finals in the same city in the same week gives UEFA the chance to use the men's final to highlight the women's game. At the Champions League festival which was in Hyde Park two years ago the women's trophy was there as well and once you have seen the women's final, you realise the quality and the entertainment.
'Any team coming to Stamford Bridge will enjoy the facilities and I am sure the match will be well-supported by the Chelsea fans. All the girls and women who are playing football in our local community through the club and the Chelsea Foundation programmes we run will engage with this final.'
Ticket details for the match at Stamford Bridge are to follow.