If there is one current theme between Roma's two senior sides it's their respective chase for Champions League qualification. For the men's side, it's a matter of life and death, as the quality of the team on the pitch in any given season is, in part, determined by Champions League revenue. However, since the FIGC doesn't yet consider the women playing in Serie A Femminile full professionals—transfer fees and wages are currently restricted by Italian law—qualifying for the Women's Champions League (for Italian clubs at least) is more about pride than financial reward.
As we mentioned throughout our 18 months or so covering Roma's women's team, Italy (and indeed all top European leagues) only send two teams to the competition, which has no group stage, jumping right into the knockout rounds like the old European Cup.
But that all might change as soon as tomorrow according to the Irish Examiner, who reported that UEFA's executive body is meeting in Nyon to discuss several matters, including expanding the Women's Champions League to include a group stage.
The Examiner includes a quote from Arsenal coach Joe Montemurro who spoke on the importance of expanding Europe's most prestigious club competition in the women's game:
We want the top three in England, the top three in France, in the Champions League.
They have got to work out a way where the top teams are there for longer and playing each other more regularly. That will showcase the level of the game and show how fantastic the top teams are.
The implications for Roma are two-fold. First, presuming this measure passes, we can assume (or at least hope) that Italy will start sending three clubs to the Champions League, perhaps as soon as next season. And with Roma currently locked in a four-way battle for the top two spots in Serie A, an additional place in the Champions League would provide further motivation, interest and drama to the domestic race.
Secondly, and more importantly, this move might...might...add further pressure on the FIGC, and Italian lawmakers in general, to treat female footballers as professionals, an issue currently being championed by Juventus and Italy captain Sara Gama, among others.
It's a bit of a domino effect, but by expanding the Champions League, more attention and revenue should begin to flow into the top clubs and if Italy remain stuck in the past, they risk losing a piece of that potentially substantial pie. More places in the Champions League equals more chances at greater revenue, respect and attention, but the odds of achieving that increase only if Italian clubs can put a better product on the pitch, which can only happen if they're allowed to pay their players wages commensurate with professional athletes, and by extension making it easier to recruit top players from outside the peninsula.
Expanding the Champions League is an enormous step for women's football in Europe—not to mention one that will very likely increase their ability to lure top talent away from the United States—and it's the latest sign of the booming popularity of the game, a trend that Italy are in danger of squandering if they don't get their act together.
As we saw during this summer's World Cup, Italy boast one of the deepest talent pools in Europe. An expansion of the Champions League could fuel Italy's continued rise in the game, but only if they start treating the league and the women within it with the respect they deserve.