There has been a great deal of controversy recently with the UK Government’s decision to classify boys’ academy football as “elite” and therefore exempt from the current lockdown legislation, whereas girls’ academies have been labelled as ‘grassroots’ and have been forced to close until early December, meaning WSL academy teams cannot train.
An injury crisis in the Gunners squad means that U-21 players Ruby Mace, Anouk Denton, Grace Pearsie and Grace Garrad have already been drafted into the first team. Montemurro explained that he cannot draft anymore until lockdown is over or the rules change. “There’s a lot of restrictions about bringing them into your bubble,” the Arsenal coach explained. “So it’s not as if we can call on Academy players when we need them on a Thursday ready for Sunday. They have to be tested a week before, then they’ve got to come into our bubble, and then they have to stay in our bubble, they can’t even go and train with the academy and come back.”
Montemurro says he hopes the situation can be reviewed in time. Several WSL clubs have had to call upon academy talent recently due to a surge in coronavirus cases. Bristol City had to draft five players into their squad at short notice on Saturday ahead of their game with Manchester City with five players self isolating and Brighton had to do the same for their defeat at Aston Villa on Sunday.
“It’s a big problem, we can’t rely on that resource,” Montemurro continued. “We’ve brought in three players from the Academy and they effectively have to stay with us now. I feel for the other teams, because you can’t just call on them at random and then they’re not training because of the situation. So that puts more stress on players and more stress on bringing players back quicker, and maybe that are not ready.
“It is something that needs to be looked at whether it’s a government legislation scenario, whether it’s an FA scenario, I’m not privy to what the best process is, but it’s a very good question. Because there are a lot of restrictions in regards to them coming into our bubble, and then they can’t leave, and so on and so on. They train with us, but then they can’t go and play with the academies even if they were playing. So it’s a tough one.”