Pre-Match Report

WSL: Arsenal Ladies v Bristol Academy

By Chris Harris

Laura Harvey has called for an improvement in pitch standards to ensure the FA WSL brings the best out of the women's game.

Arsenal Ladies welcome FA Cup finalists Bristol Academy to Meadow Park this evening for their first home game of the inaugural Super League campaign and the visitors will be reassured by the quality of the playing surface at Boreham Wood's ground.

That wasn't the case when Arsenal kicked off the season in front of live television cameras against Chelsea at Tooting and Mitcham last Wednesday. Gilly Flaherty's goal secured a welcome three points but both sides had to compete with a bare, bumpy playing surface which did nothing to enhance the quality of the football.

Harvey is naturally concerned. "We could be selfish and say ‘it doesn’t matter because we got three points, we are happy with that’," she told

"But because we want women’s football to progress, the game to be as good as it possibly can be and we want players to improve domestically and internationally they have got to be put on a surface that allows them to do that. Wednesday didn’t allow them to do that.

"I don’t want to keep going on about it but if every week you played on a pitch like that, your players aren’t going to get any better. Whether that wins you football matches in the long term is irrelevant because the game won't improve.

"It is something we have got to look at collectively within women’s football. Do we want competitive games or do we want players to become better players? You can only do that if you put them on the right facility to make that happen."

Harvey has injury concerns ahead of tonight's opening home game with Kim Little (hamstring) and Jayne Ludlow (Achilles) definitely ruled out. Niamh Fahey (knee) and Flaherty (ankle) face late fitness tests.

Bristol Academy will arrive at Meadow Park having secured their place in next season's Women's Champions League by virtue of reaching this year's FA Women's Cup Final. This season's finalists qualify for Europe because the WSL campaign ends in September when the European tournament is getting underway.

Arsenal will face Bristol in the Cup Final - and subsequently book their Champions League place - if they beat Barnet in their Semi-Final on Sunday.

* To celebrate their first WSL home game. Arsenal Ladies FC are hosting a FREE girl's football festival on the afternoon of the game.

Girls aged six to 10 and girls' teams up to Under-10 are invited to participate. Coaches from the Arsenal Centre of Excellence will be on hand to run fun games that will build confidence and skills at football.

There will be mini matches with the emphasis on fun, playing with friends and learning new skills. All girls who participate will also receive a complimentary ticket to the match.

The festival will take place at Meadow Park, adjacent to the Boreham Wood FC ground between 4:30pm and 6:30pm. Please contact for further information and to register.

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