‘Like an ice rink’: Emma Hayes fumes after Chelsea v Liverpool abandoned | Women’s Super League

Chelsea and Liverpool players have condemned the merry-go-round of decision-making that led to Chelsea’s match against Liverpool being postponed six minutes into the game due to a frozen pitch that manager Emma Hayes described as being like an “ice rink”.

A pitch inspection at 9.30am at Kingsmeadow had deemed the pitch at Chelsea’s home ground for their women’s and academy teams was unplayable. Covers were put across the pitch and heaters directed at it in an attempt to thaw it and prior to the warmup it was judged usable, although Chelsea moved to a different area of the pitch for their warm up.

As players slipped and skidded across the frozen ground after kick-off, the referee, Paul Howard, called a stop to proceedings and went into discussion with both teams before suspending play.

“On every front today was unacceptable!! We demand more for our game. DO BETTER. Thank you to all the travelling fans and apologies for today,” wrote Chelsea centre back Millie Bright in a Tweet.

“Players’ safety should always be the number one priority. Luckily no one was injured today and the right decision was taken eventually. Women’s football deserves better and we won’t stop fighting to make that happen,” added forward Fran Kirby.

Speaking to BBC Two after the suspension of the game, Hayes said: “You could see from the opening minutes that it was like an ice rink down the sides. It’s not for managers to decide if it’s on – it’s up to the FA and officials. The game should never have started. Everyone wanted to get the game on but when you have got emotions of teams wanting or not wanting to play, that’s when you need a decision from above. The FA weren’t here – they need to be making the decision.”

Chelsea v Liverpool at Kingsmeadow did get underway but was called off shortly after kick-off.
Chelsea v Liverpool at Kingsmeadow did get underway but was called off shortly after kick-off. Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA

She also called for undersoil heating to be the norm, a call that was echoed by fans and players on social media. “We have to say to ourselves that it’s time for undersoil heating. We’ve got to take our game seriously. Yes, we can have our blowers and pitch tents but it’s not enough,” said Hayes.

Liverpool manager Matt Beard said: “They were going to give it a chance, so that was the explanation. It wasn’t safe down there [the dugout side]. There were patches in the centre and other areas. I guess where they had the heat [it thawed], but for the majority of the pitch that wasn’t the case.”

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.”

The game at Kingsmeadow was one of three fixtures to be called off, with Tottenham’s game against Leicester at Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road and Brighton’s match against Arsenal at Crawley Town’s Broadfield stadium also postponed.

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