Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall says he is dubious about directing funds for women’s football into undersoil heating at stadiums. This weekend, Chelsea’s home match with Liverpool was abandoned after six minutes due to an icy pitch.
Arsenal’s match away at Brighton was postponed two hours before kickoff while Tottenham had a second home match of the season postponed too.
It has birthed a debate about whether undersoil heating should be mandatory across the league- a rule which would be tricky given that most WSL clubs groundshare with lower league or non-league men’s clubs.
Eidevall suggests there are short-term and long-term factors to consider in addressing postponements but suggests the answers are not straightforward.
“If you look historically in January, it is a troublesome month to play on grass pitches. We can’t change nature. Maybe when games are scheduled there there should be an awareness that it’s problematic.
“I think the solution is the difference between long-term and short-term. Short-term, it’s communication. Early communication saves fans money and time, from a league perspective if saves us from seeing pictures like we saw at Chelsea v Liverpool on Sunday, which is really bad advertising for the WSL.
“Long-term, how do you solve that? Either you don’t schedule games in January, which is one way but that’s not good for commercial reasons. The other thing is how do you make games more accessible in January?
“I don’t think that is quite as easy as having undersoil heating. I think you have to look at it from all investment angles. You need to prioritise and there are so many things we would like to invest in in the women’s game at the moment.
“When you see the cost for undersoil heating and compare to the cost of having proper academy system in order to develop more British players- it is not easy to see how you prioritise that money.
“In life in general, the easy thing is to try to fix the topic of the day. I completely agree with Emma (Hayes) what happened at the Chelsea game to play those minutes was really bad for the league.
“But when we zoom out, we need to see where the investment priorities are and we can’t make an emotional decision because this was a problem yesterday that all the money goes into that. That won’t be good for women’s football.
“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.”
CHE – LIV… 🤦🏼♀️ and (TOT – LEI) #WSL
Players safety should always come first. Luckily no one got injured today.
Only way to fix this is to demand undersoil heating or playing our games in men’s stadiums.
FA and clubs, please do better. 🙏🏽
— Vivianne Miedema (@VivianneMiedema) January 22, 2023
Eidevall was asked whether playing games at men’s stadiums during the harsher winter months could be a solution and he remained a little sceptical.
“Our long-term plan is to try to be at the Emirates permanently, that’s our long-term plan. But I don’t think the league is at a stage where you can have that requirement on all clubs.
“Some clubs have that possibility but what about newly promoted teams from the Championship- how quickly can you meet those stadium requirements? Maybe that is something we look into long-term.
“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 fulfill that so that’s not something we can do tomorrow.
“It could be done in, say, five years. The league could say ‘this is the requirement, it is going to be effective from this date and now everyone has a set amount of time to meet it. If you want to play in the league you have to fulfill this requirement.’
“I think that would be sensible. All the leagues around the world have stadium requirements it’s for the league to settle that.”
However, Eidevall suggested that the league needs much clearer principles on what happens with postponements. “The league is really weak on this, given that this is a league that has lots of postponed matches every year for different reasons.
“There is no clear regulation on what happens with postponed games- when are we playing them? Are they played on one side of the transfer window? Which team has a say on when it is played?
“As a kid, when you play board games with your older cousins and you ask them about the rules and they say ‘we’ll adress that when we get there’ and you think ‘that’s nice, we don’t have to think about that.’
“Then when you get there, all of a sudden you realise that it’s not a great idea because people take advantage of you. I don’t think it’s great to be in a professional league when nobody knows when games are moved to.
“People are taking advantage of it and people took advantage of it last year and I was angry about that. The rules need to be clear. If a game is postponed on a Sunday, can you not play on a Monday?
“Maybe there is a reason for that but why should it be played three months later? It should be transparent with a proper process.”
So the issue is that the men’s clubs are already subsidising the women’s too. Large extent. To put in under soil heating at non league or lower division clubs would be uneconomic. Of course the women’s teams could try raising more revenue but then gin charging more for entry might well have an impact on numbers through the gate. It’s all very well Miedema moaning that someone else should do something but financial realities are exactly that.
They are football clubs, not men’s clubs. They have men’s, women’s and kid teams. It’s a club. All are welcome.
Increased prices will come and are coming actually, largely because for too long not enough value has been assigned to the product. But the point is that women’s football is in a nascent stage, developmentally and why is that? Because the sport was literally banned by the FA for fifty years and then, for around 40 years after it was not literally banned, it was ignored. So all that time that men’s clubs were buying up land for their own stadiums and now there is none left- otherwise most of the elite women’s teams would be building them. Arsenal tried… Read more »
Agree Tim. It’s all very well for the Premier League millionaires to afford billiard tables to play on but these younger folk need to watch a few videos of the First Division matches as they were 50 years ago! Remember the Baseball Ground at Derby? Three matches into every season and it was a ploughed field! Even Highbury wasn’t always great and that was one of the earliest installations of undersoil heating with one of the best groundstaff teams in the league to maintain it. Plenty of lower league men’s games still get postponed during winter months due to unplayable… Read more »
Thanks so much, Tim. Brilliant response, putting the situation into context,
I would also add that women support the men’s team as well – our money has been going into the club for years and only recently have we had a professional women’s team to support.
I’m from Sweden, and as you could imagine the weather is quite the factor in any games played in the winter half of the year. Leagues and teams (womens and mens) here have to deal with it in different ways, non of which is perfect. The costs of putting up “south of europe” conditions in the middle of the winter here would ve astronomical and indefensible, so there’s compromises. Our leagues are summer leagues, which obviously isn’t perfect concidering most leagues in europe are not. We also have a lot of turf and indoor turf for practice (both in mens… Read more »
Jonas talking sense again. No magic bullet but I would pick a winter break as the least bad option. Games until mid December then restart in the first weekend of February. 4 weeks of holiday, with the men’s packed schedule available for fans to watch, two weeks of a mini preseason. It might even help with the injury situation. Interesting that the long term plan is to play at the Emirates. I wonder how the club will balance the costs of opening up for 15,000-40,000 which I suspect will be the size of the gates for some time, assuming that… Read more »
Agree with the investment priority of a proper academy system. Also it doesn’t cost any money to set up transparent rules for postponements. Like Jonas I’m also still sore about vague covid rule postponements last January.
Yes we disadvantaged ourselves by Jonas being too honest and trying to play the matches at the scheduled times despite only having a depleted squad at his disposal. Other clubs, naming no names, used the virus to their advantage by postponing games until they had their full squad fit and available. Funny how one of those clubs has now implemented a “workaround” for the FFP rules in an attempt to gain advantage. I’m all for sporting psychology and all of the other things that improve player performance to make the game more of a spectacle but interpreting situations or rules… Read more »