The Liverpool FC Women were supposed to play Chelsea today. In fact, the DID play Chelsea today for almost six whole minutes. In the end, however, the match was abandoned due to dangerous icy conditions on the pitch. What unfolded after the match detailed a timeline of embarrassing decisions that put players at risk and showed little regard for supporters. Let’s take a quick look at what happened.
With freezing temperatures, and no undersoil heating at Kingsmeadow (or any of the WSL team’s pitches), frost covers were placed over the pitch in an attempt to keep the field from freezing. Despite the groundcrews' best efforts, an initial inspection at 9:30am local time deemed the pitch not playable.
For whatever reason, it was decided to continue to work on the pitch with blowers to try to thaw it out and do another inspection shortly before the scheduled kickoff time. At that point, the referee said play would continue.
During the referee’s first inspection at 09:30, the pitch was not deemed playable— Molly Hudson (@M0lly_Writes) January 22, 2023
This was the error
It was agreed to inspect the pitch again closer to kick off, following the use of a pitch cover and heaters. Prior to kick off, the referee deemed the surface playable
The decision to play was objected to by both managers. Indeed, Liverpool’s Managing Director, Russ Fraser, emailed the FA that the club did not agree with the decision.
Post-match @LiverpoolFCW manager Matt Beard told the BBC the club had told the referee before kick-off his team felt the pitch was unplayable. LFC Women MD Russ Fraser also emailed the FA pre kick-off to put on record the club's concern that the game was going ahead.— Andy Kelly (@AndyK_LivNews) January 22, 2023
It quickly became very apparent to everyone watching the match that the ground was certainly still frozen all over the field. In the less than six minutes of play, players from both squads were sliding and falling all over the place.
Chelsea women vs Liverpool highlights #CFCW #WSL pic.twitter.com/mlYu3yb1DQ— frankirbydaily (@frankirbydaily) January 22, 2023
While thankfully there were no serious injuries, players certainly felt the effects of the frozen surface. Players like Erin Cuthbert had large scrapes after taking a tumble.
WSL farce as Chelsea v Liverpool abandoned after six minutes due to frozen pitchhttps://t.co/M3p7sKoaX7 pic.twitter.com/5VcSBeereL— Molly Hudson (@M0lly_Writes) January 22, 2023
After just 5:33 elapsed into the match, the lead referee blew his whistle to stop play, and then went over to confer with managers Matt Beard and Emma Hayes. After a short discussion, it was announced that the match was abandoned for the day, and would be rescheduled for a later date due to the frozen pitch surface.
Today's match has now been postponed due to a frozen pitch.— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) January 22, 2023
Both Matt Beard and Emma Hayes did not hold back in their comments after the match had been abandoned. Beard was rightly incensed with the decision making, for both his players as well as the supporters who made the trek to London.
“The pitch is frozen”, Beard said in an interview with BBC Sport. “I don’t know why it took six or seven minutes for us to find out it was frozen. It was frozen this morning, it was frozen in the warm-up, and you can clearly see it down one side and in the penalty box. I’m just gutted for our fans because they have set off at 5am this morning to come down when it could have been postponed at 9.30am because the pitch wasn’t safe. If you look at the temperature, it wasn’t going to get above zero today. It’s frustrating all round but this shouldn’t have been played in the first place.”
Beard also let it be known that there was an initial discussion about moving kickoff back to 2pm local time rather than 12:30 in an effort to allow the field to thaw out. That plan was nixed, apparently.
“They spoke about putting the game back to 2pm and they still run with it at 12.30pm. I was a bit surprised when I got that phone call to say it’s 12.30pm, not 2pm.”
Emma Hayes stated a similar frustration with the decision to play despite the field being obviously frozen. She also expressed that investment in undersoil heating for the pitches WSL clubs play on is needed.
“You could see from the opening minutes that it was like an ice rink down the sides,” said Hayes.
“It’s not for managers to decide if it’s on — it’s up to the FA and officials. 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. I understand; we have to put player safety first. We’ve made progress with investment into the quality of grasses and surfaces across the league. No game at the top level of the women’s game should be cancelled. We need undersoil heating — we don’t live in Barbados.”
Emma Hayes ️— Chelsea Women Daily (@CFCWdaily) January 22, 2023
"...I think this is where we have to start saying to ourselves, we have to have undersoil heating. If we are going to take our game seriously..."#CFCW pic.twitter.com/SMwUFVJyih
For now, Liverpool and Chelsea will have to find another date to fit in a fixture. Liverpool already had a date reschedule with Leicester City, and open dates are are hard to come by. Two other WSL matches that were set to take place in London today were also postponed due to frozen pitches, though thankfully prior to kickoff.
Matt Beard’s side will head back to Liverpool after a wasted trip and prepare to take on West Ham in the FA Continental Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday before turning around and heading back to London to take on Chelsea next Sunday in a FA Cup fourth round clash.