Reflecting on last weekend’s postponed matches, Jonas Eidevall believes that a substantial yet measured approach to the issue can help the Women’s Super League going forward.
Three WSL fixtures were ultimately postponed on Sunday due to frozen pitch conditions. Unlike our visit to Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur’s clash with Leicester City, Chelsea and Liverpool’s fixture at Kingsmeadow kicked off only to be abandoned after six minutes. The disruption provoked fresh calls for undersoil heating at WSL grounds, as well as a potential switch to main stadiums.
During his press conference for tomorrow’s Continental Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa, our head coach said: “If you look historically at January, it’s a troublesome month to play on grass pitches that have no protection against nature. When you’re scheduling games, you should be aware that it’s problematic.
“If you avoid scheduling games in January, that’s not good commercially. I don’t think it’s as easy as the demand for undersoil heating. What is the solution for that? I think it’s the difference between short-term and long-term. Short-term communication is the key.”
Eidevall acknowledged that player safety was paramount in making the decisions to play or postpone, alongside ensuring supporters have plenty of notice: “Early communication saves fans time and money for not travelling to grounds.”
While the boss noted that switching fixtures to main stadiums is sometimes feasible for established WSL clubs, the question remains of how that can be rolled out league-wide: “when you’re a newly promoted team, how quickly can you meet those stadium requirements?”
“You have to look at all the investments you need to make to the game and prioritise. There are so many things you’d like to invest in, in the women’s game. When you compare the cost of undersoil heating to the cost of an academy system to develop more British players into the league, I don’t think it’s easy to say that’s how you’d prioritise that money. Our academy system is really important as well.”
“I think the easiest thing is always to try and fix the topic of the day. Looking at it from a more zoomed-out perspective, we need to really see where the priorities should be with investment. Just because this was a problem yesterday, it doesn’t mean that all the money all of a sudden should go into undersoil heating.
“That's not going to be good for women's football: we need to take really, really good decisions on where the investments should be going in order to grow the game long term,” he continued.
Whilst the majority of our home games are currently hosted at Meadow Park, our women’s side have played a record number of matches at Emirates Stadium this season, breaking the WSL attendances in the process.
“Our long-term plan is to try and be at Emirates Stadium permanently. That’s the long-term plan.”
To watch Eidevall’s press conference in full, click play on the video above.
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