Emma Hayes says as a top football division similar to the Premier League, the Women’s Super League should be afforded the same access to undersoil heating and other resources.
Six minutes into Chelsea’s game against Liverpool on Sunday, the match was abandoned due to a frozen pitch, with players consistently slipping over and struggling to play.
It led to outrage among the women’s football community, with the likes of Fara Williams, Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead expressing their dismay on social media.
While many Premier League and Championship grounds have undersoil heating to prevent frozen pitches from cancelling games, most WSL grounds – such as Chelsea’s Kingsmeadow – do not.
Blues manager Hayes believes that – as the WSL is the top division of women’s football, the same as the Premier League is to the men’s game – the clubs must have access to the same technology to avoid further postponements.
“There is no doubt that up and down the country, frozen pitches are cancelling games in every league outside the Premier League, so these things happen,” she said.
“But the WSL is the top division in the women’s game as far as I’m concerned and should be afforded the same access and opportunity that is there at the top division of the men’s game.
“The WSL is the same level as the Premier League – just because we’re women, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be afforded the same access.
“What that reflection is not for me to determine. I think that is about a consultation between the FA and the clubs to ensure those fixtures happen. It should be a non-negotiable and if not, don’t schedule them.
“I think in general, if this is the top division of women’s football, then we should be afforded exactly the same opportunities.
“As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t about Chelsea, it’s about women’s football and being in a place where we are working hard to build a fanbase, build a business and all of these things with many years without equal access to things.
“Undersoil heating is not environmentally friendly so an environmentally friendly option for pitches in an ideal world so that we can play in a top division is what I think we can all expect. Let’s hope we can continue to work towards that.”
Hayes also questioned why current measures in place to help unfreeze pitches do not work, while offering her thoughts on potential solutions.
However, the Chelsea manager does point out that the final decisions on anything related to pitches and undersoil heating do not lie with her.
“We’ve got pitch covers and heaters that are designed to prevent frozen pitches. If they don’t do that job, then we have to have another solution,” Hayes added.
“That’s not my job to do that, that’s for the leagues and clubs to find a solution so we never cancel games. I’ve said this for years, cancelling games has a detrimental impact on our sport.
“Whatever that takes to ensure that fans travelling up and down the country are not showing up and having a game cancelled six minutes in is something we should all work towards.
“Maybe we schedule winter games in stadiums that we know have undersoil heading, for example. Maybe that’s a next step. If we can’t get them into every stadium, this isn’t about one team, this is ensuring every fixture happens and maybe that’s something the league as a whole has to consider.
“We had a warmer winter last year and maybe we didn’t face threat. But I thought the whole idea behind having a dome and blowers was to prevent those things from happening.
“So if that’s the case, either the equipment isn’t good enough and we need something better or we need to play at another stadium.”
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.”
Arsenal Women have set a deadline of midday on Thursday afternoon to decide whether their Continental Cup tie with Aston Villa will go ahead later that evening due to poor conditions.
With the cold weather continuing this week, Arsenal have announced that a “final decision” surrounding their match at home to Aston Villa will be made 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”.
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