Last weekend's WSL action was marred by fixture postponements; Chelsea vs Liverpool was called off after six minutes due to unplayable conditions, a scenario branded "unprofessional"; Arsenal have set a pitch inspection deadline for their Continental Cup tie with Aston Villa on Thursday
Thursday 26 January 2023 06:22, UK
Jonas Eidevall agrees with Emma Hayes that abandoning WSL matches due to frozen pitches is "bad for the league", but the Arsenal head coach does not think undersoil heating should be the priority right now.
Last weekend's WSL action was marred by late postponements and an abandoned game due to the freezing weather - with the saga being branded as a "dark weekend" for women's football.
Sunday's fixture between Chelsea and Liverpool was abandoned after just six minutes due to the conditions posing a risk to player safety, leaving managers Hayes and Matt Beard furious that the game went ahead in the first place.
Hayes went on to say the WSL should have access to the same technology - such as undersoil heating - as the men's game to avoid further postponements, but Eidevall said there are different factors to consider.
"I don't think that is quite as easy as having undersoil heating," Eidevall said ahead of Arsenal's Continental Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa on Thursday.
"I think you have to look at it from all investment angles. You need to prioritise and there are so many things we would like to invest in in the women's game at the moment.
"When you see the cost for undersoil heating and compare it to the cost of having a proper academy system in order to develop more British players, it is not easy to see how you prioritise that money.
"In life in general, the easy thing is to try to fix the topic of the day. I completely agree with Emma. What happened at the Chelsea game, to play those minutes was really bad for the league.
"But when we zoom out, we need to see where the investment priorities are and we can't make an emotional decision because this was a problem yesterday that all the money goes into that. That won't be good for women's football.
"We need to make good decisions long-term about where the money should be going for women's football and I am very doubtful that it should be undersoil heating at the moment."
Arsenal's trip to Brighton, which was set to be broadcast live on Sky Sports, was also postponed at 4.11pm on Sunday, two hours and 34 minutes prior to the scheduled 6.45pm kick-off time at Broadfield Stadium. Tottenham's match with Leicester was another game that fell foul of the freezing conditions.
With the cold weather continuing this week, Arsenal have announced that a "final decision" surrounding their match at home to Villa will be made at midday on Thursday afternoon, over seven hours before the scheduled kick-off time at Boreham Wood, to give supporters enough notice.
The north London club also looked into the possibility of moving the fixture to the Emirates Stadium - the 60,000-seater venue where both the men and women's teams have played this season - but that scenario was not possible due to "essential pitch maintenance".
"Our long-term plan is to try to be at the Emirates permanently, that's our long-term plan," Eidevall said. "But I don't think the league is at a stage where you can have that requirement on all clubs.
"Some clubs have that possibility but what about newly promoted teams from the Championship? How quickly can you meet those stadium requirements? Maybe that is something we look into long-term.
"Maybe we have to look into what kind of stadium requirements there are to play in the league. But there are teams in the WSL and the Championship who would need time to fulfill that so that's not something we can do tomorrow.
"It could be done in, say, five years. The league could say 'this is the requirement, it is going to be effective from this date and now everyone has a set amount of time to meet it. If you want to play in the league you have to fulfill this requirement.'
"I think that would be sensible. All the leagues around the world have stadium requirements it's for the league to settle that."
However, Eidevall suggested the WSL needs much clearer rules regarding postponements.
"The league is really weak on this, given that this is a league that has lots of postponed matches every year for different reasons," he said.
"There is no clear regulation on what happens with postponed games - when are we playing them? Are they played on one side of the transfer window? Which team has a say on when it is played?
"People are taking advantage of it and people took advantage of it last year and I was angry about that. The rules need to be clear. If a game is postponed on a Sunday, can you not play on a Monday?
"Maybe there is a reason for that but why should it be played three months later? It should be transparent with a proper process."
Manchester United head coach Marc Skinner believes it "shouldn't be down to coaches" to decide when a pitch is playable.
United were able to go ahead with their fixture, beating Reading 1-0 to go top of the table on goal difference, but Skinner is hopeful lessons have been learned from the fiasco at Kingsmeadow.
"I know Matt [Beard] and I know Emma [Hayes], they've both won this league so they're both experienced enough to understand what the situation was," Skinner said.
"I don't know what they were told so I'm not going to insinuate anything.
"I felt they dealt with it as best they could at that moment and I'm sure from that the review will be that somebody in this position will take control of that situation.
"It shouldn't be down to the coaches, and I would not blame them for putting players on the field because I'm sure there's potential fines if you don't field a team and so on.
"I'm pretty sure from this point on it'll be reviewed and we won't get into this position again."
Everton midfielder Izzy Christiansen has called for action to address the amount of Women's Super League games lost to bad weather after "a dark weekend" for the women's game.
Chelsea and Liverpool's match Kingsmeadow passed a pitch inspection two hours before the 12.30pm kick-off, but after Blues midfielder Erin Cuthbert took a heavy fall in the fifth minute, referee Neil Hair deemed the pitch unplayable and called off the fixture.
Christiansen said a long-term solution is required to avoid a repeat of the "shocking" situation at Kingsmeadow and not damage the momentum and integrity of the game that has been growing exponentially following the Lionesses' Euros success last summer.
"Action needs to be taken, possibly an investigation into what's actually happened and why and how the FA and clubs move forward to make sure this doesn't happen again in the future," Christiansen told Sky Sports.
"Without sounding like a broken record, the weather at this time of year in England is cold, so there needs to be decisions made for clubs from the FA that enables games to proceed, because again we speak about scheduling in the women's calendar, and backlog of games towards the end of the season - and that comes back to a player welfare issue again.
"Talking about player's welfare, when it comes to women's football, we're used to dealing with a lot more issues than men's football and the battles in our careers.
"Whether a game is on or not is nothing new to a lot of players because of the weather or another circumstance, I feel like it's something that as women players we're used to, the uncertainty around games.
When dealing with such elements as frost or ice – remember that the highest temperature of the day is usually around midday. Get a forecast if necessary of the projected temperature for the time when the match is due to conclude
- The manpower available to the home club to carry out any necessary work to make the ground playable
- The time the visiting club are due to commence their journey
- Liaise with managers to gauge the thoughts of both clubs
Remember the decision as to whether the match is played, is the referee's.
"We're talking about a real dark weekend in the WSL where a lack of clarity, a lack of decision-making has represented where the game is at the moment and it's a really worrying situation for us as players and for the authorities as well that that's happened and the spotlight that is on the women's game and brighter than ever at the moment.
"You can't change it overnight, it needs to be a long-term solution. This can't happen again next season. For now, what I think has to happen, is better decision-making, more informed decisions, that protect not just the players but the game and its integrity, because a game that gets called off six minutes after it has started, really, really takes the game backwards in my opinion.
"The Arsenal-Brighton game got called off sooner than that and the Tottenham-Leicester game was called off with about 24 hours' notice. I think that's what still happens in men's lower-league football, so I think we have to be realistic here, there just aren't enough stadiums that have undersoil heating and higher specifications that allow games to proceed no matter what the weather is.
"We understand the women's game isn't there yet. But a game kicking off and then being abandoned after six minutes is a dark day for women's football."
A Women's Super League spokesperson said: "We worked hard with the clubs and the match officials to safely play the Barclay's Women's Super League fixture between Chelsea and Liverpool as scheduled. Following inspections before the match, the pitch was deemed to be playable by the matchday referee.
"However, shortly after kick-off, the referee made the decision to abandon the match in order to protect the safety of the players, which is paramount. We sincerely apologise to all fans who travelled to the match. The fixture will be rescheduled in due course."
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