Back in November The Woodwork reported on the problem women's teams face when it comes to their match venues. (https://www.thewoodworkuk.com/post/luton-and-tottenham-games-postponed-due-to-waterlogged-pitches-is-this-acceptable )
Three months on and the same problems are once again undermining what should be the most exciting and prosperous stage the women's game has ever seen in this country.
The success of the summer's UEFA Women's Euros has seen an explosion of interest in the game, with season ticket sell outs and full capacity mens grounds now a common sight, but how is a fan base expected to stay loyal and interested if they keep being pushed to the bottom of the pile?
While the adverse weather conditions the UK are currently experiencing hasn’t affected the men's top-flight teams, the past weekend saw three WSL matches postponed due to unplayable conditions, with one even being called off after play had begun.
Thankfully, none of Chelsea or Liverpool's players were injured in the six minute ice skating exhibition game but for those who made the long journey down they were left feeling out in the cold.
Liverpool manager Matt Beard expressed his sympathy and gratitude for the Scouse faithful who had a wake up call of 3:30am to see their team play:
“I don’t know why it took 6,7 minutes for us to find out that it was frozen. It was frozen this morning, and it was frozen in the warm up.”
“I’m just gutted for our fans because they’ve set off at 5 o’clock this morning to come down when it could have been postponed at 9:30(am) because the pitch weren’t safe.”
Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy also expressed a gesture of good will, buying a group of fans a drink each, to show her thanks for their unwavering support.
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes wants to see mandatory undersoil heating for a league branding itself as one of the worlds most competitive in the the women's game:
“We’ve got to take our game seriously,”
“We can have blowers and little pitch tents, but it’s not going to be enough.”
“No game in the women’s game at this top level should be cancelled. We need undersoil heating everywhere. We don’t live in Barbados.”
Players including Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema echoed this frustration, calling for those in administration to do more.
All those in the women’s game are confused and they want answers and viable solutions from those at the top.
Injuries are already more prevalent in female athletes than male, and they certainly don’t need inadequate playing conditions to add to this concern, especially when many of the WSL stars will be looking to add the most sought after trophy in world football, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, to to their cabinet in 6 months time.
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall agrees that matches postponed as a result of frozen pitches is bad for the league, but he does not necessarily agree that the first investment in women’s football should be undersoil heating:
"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.
"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."
Eidevall did however express his hope that the Arsenal women’s team can one day make the Emirates their permanent home:
"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.
"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 fulfil that so that's not something we can do tomorrow.
Undersoil heating, playing in men’s stadiums, or artificial pitches? Whatever the solution, it needs to be found because women’s football deserves better.