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  • Writer's pictureBethany Barker

Frozen pitches led to cancelled and abandoned matches

Were the cancelled matches predictable? Is it time for the FA to step up and prevent this from happening again?

Tuesday 24th January 2023

 

Over the last week, three WSL games have been cancelled due to the bad conditions of the pitches as a result of the cold weather. The pitch conditions could have led to an increase in injuries, for players who already have an increased probability of ACL injuries, which has already been seen this season.


I was in attendance at the Chelsea v Liverpool game on Sunday which was abandoned after just six minutes of play when the referee-Neil Hair- deemed the pitch unsafe to play on. The weather was hitting minus one and the low fog over Kingsmeadow meant that from the North stand it was hard to make out the parallel stands and the end of the pitch; this could have been a telling sign that the game should have been called off at the first pitch inspection at 9:30 am.

After the decision was made to call the game off many players thanked the fans before they headed in. I was able to speak to Liverpool goalkeeper, Rachael Laws who stayed behind to explain the decision made to fans before she left to thank the away fans. Laws explained that the referee was counting the slips and he felt that there had already been too many, which ultimately led to the abandonment of the game; she stated that certain parts of the pitch were playable but other areas were still frozen which raised questions on player safety. Laws' manager- Matt Beard- expressed the same concerns about player safety when he stated that the decision to put the game on put players at risk. Speaking to the fans Emma Hayes- Chelsea's manager- stated that the decision was "wrong in terms of the timing but right for the players." as the pitch was "like an ice rink down the sides" which could have led to serious injuries if left to play. Hayes states that the covers and left blowers given to the women's teams are not enough to make the pitch playable and suggests that undersoil heating needs to be added to all stadiums to ensure this does not happen again.

With players, such as Chelsea defender Millie Bright, calling the weekend's events "unacceptable" and calling for more change it highlights the issues still apparent in the women's league. A few solutions to avoid fan disappointment could include getting undersoil heating at stadiums, but the downfall of that is it comes with a massive expense which women's clubs just don't have unless the FA are going to start helping them out more. Or even increase the support from the men's teams. How about the women's teams playing at the men's grounds when not being used? Stamford Bridge for example was not being used for nineteen days, including the last Sunday, so the game could have been played there. However, it would cost twenty times more- £500,000- to put a women's game on at Stamford Bridge than at Kingsmeadow, bringing about teh question of more financial aid being needed for women's football.


Whilst many will see the recent events of the WSL as embarrassing- especially following an attendance of 46,811 at last week's game for Chelsea- it does allow the holes and inequalities in the structure of the league to be highlighted hopefully bringing about more positive changes.


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