Air Charter Equality In The Champions League
Is equality in the air? Women finally starting to travel by air charter in the Champions League
With the last 32 of the UEFA Women’s Champions League close to completion, an air charter specialist has revealed that women’s teams are finally starting to be granted the same travel perks as men.
Europe’s biggest clubs, from holders Lyon to Barcelona, Man City, Paris St Germain, Chelsea and Wolfsburg, have been going head-to-head in the tournament which ends with a final in Gothenburg, Sweden, in May 2021.
This year the draw was designed to avoid long journeys – some clubs are up to 37000 miles apart – but getting players to venues across the continent in peak condition is still a challenge.
For many years now the top football teams across the world have chartered aircraft to take their male stars to matches and tournaments under those circumstances. But women have been left behind, often flying alongside the public on scheduled airlines or even travelling by rail or coach for shorter journeys.
Now, however, global air charter specialist Chapman Freeborn has noticed a new trend in women’s European football – teams finally getting the go-ahead to level up the playing field and see their athletes treated the same as the men.
Nick Lamb, Group Sports Director at Chapman Freeborn, said: “We have seen a significant increase in enquiries, certainly this year. This is predominantly due to greater investment in the sport plus the impact of the pandemic because teams are wanting to stay in their ‘bubble’ and travel in a secure and safe environment.
“It is early days, of course. Almost all the enquiries we have received are within football – and compared to the men’s game, it’s a minute percentage. But we hope to see this change soon with more investment going into many women’s sports and with a greater focus on gender equality.
“The UEFA Women’s Champions League is a good barometer and we received many enquiries, even during the qualifying stages. Teams are wanting to stay in their bubble and be socially distanced and are more likely to travel by charter to destinations where scheduled flights are complicated or non-existent.”
The United States has always been ahead of the game when it comes to the way female football players are looked after, not least because the sport has enjoyed a higher profile there, but it may be time for Europe to follow suit.
Nick added: “The US has historically led the way when it comes to chartering women’s teams, mainly because women’s football generates large income and is growing ever bigger.
“But as women’s football continues to grow in Europe, too, people are asking why the men should travel by charter in a safe secure way but the women be treated differently. We strongly believe that as the profile of women’s sport grows, flying by charter will increase.
“I expect by the time the Euros arrive in England in June 2022, women’s football teams will be flying by charter far more regularly.
“In fact, this could be the tournament where we see a significant shift, even though scheduled flights are likely to be easily accessible in the host country. It will be interesting to see what national associations choose to do because the trend to want women treated the same as the men is certainly there.”
The benefit of travelling by air charter is that is flights are always direct and often leave from more convenient private or regional airports with private lounges and check-in facilities. Clubs can set their own flight departure times and ask for the aircraft to be tailored to suit their needs, for instance by sitting passengers further apart or by asking for extra safety or hygiene measures.
“Having flexibility over departure times means teams can often fly straight home after a match and not require an extra night in a hotel,” said Nick. “There’s no doubt that teams which travel by air charter give themselves an advantage because it is less stressful and more comfortable and can often be achieved with little or no contact with the general public.
“As women’s sport continues to grow, both in terms of both profile and finance, you would think it’s inevitable that teams will want to offer female athletes that same service and maximise player health, safety and recovery.”
The UEFA Women’s Champions League Last 32 will be completed in February 2021 when Brondby play Valerenga, with the Last 16 fixtures due to take place in March.