Chelsea’s Women’s Super League fixture against Liverpool was abandoned around six minutes after kick-off due to an unplayable pitch.
The players kicked off at Kingsmeadow for the 12.30pm fixture but the game was curtailed shortly after when the referee deemed the pitch frozen.
Chelsea’s official website confirmed that the decision had been made for player safety, reporting that “freezing conditions” saw “several players slipping during the opening exchanges and appearing to be in pain after falling on the hard surface”.
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes told the BBC after the abandonment: “You can see from the opening minutes that it was like an ice rink out there.”
Asked if the game should have started, she said: “Never.”
The referee has taken the decision to abandon today’s game due to a frozen pitch.
The club will provide a further announcement on the fixture in due course.#CFCW
— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) January 22, 2023
Hayes, whose side were looking to stay at the summit against opposition 20 points behind them, addressed fans after a development that former Brighton and England boss Hope Powell described on the BBC coverage as “embarrassing”.
“I know how much you are invested in the team and how hard it is to get here and that people come from up and down the country,” Hayes said. “Everybody wanted the game to be on and there was a fair attempt on all parts to do it.
“The decision to call it off at this time is wrong in terms of the timing but right for the players.”
Liverpool boss Matt Beard said: “The pitch is frozen. 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.”
Apologies to both sets of fans who travelled today. Players safety should always be the number one priority❗️ Luckily no one was injured today and the right decision was taken eventually. Womens football deserves better and we won’t stop fighting to make that happen 💪🏻
— Fran Kirby (@frankirby) January 22, 2023
Chelsea had announced a pitch inspection at 9.30am on Sunday morning, with ground staff using rakes and heaters to try and prepare the turf after covers were taken off.
The club’s social media channels confirmed the game was on around 45 minutes later and posted pictures of players warming up in foggy conditions.
But though the game commenced in front of the television cameras, the referee soon brought a halt to proceedings.
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
A WSL spokesperson said later on Sunday: “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.”
Hayes said the late decision put the spotlight back on facilities in the women’s game and called for the implementation of undersoil heating.
She said: “Look, we’ve made progress; investment has gone into the quality of the grass and surfaces across the league.
“Next step is undersoil heating. No game in the women’s game at this top level should be cancelled, end of subject. We need undersoil heating everywhere. We don’t live in Barbados.”
Chelsea said tickets for the revised fixture would remain valid.
Tottenham’s WSL fixture against Leicester on Sunday was also postponed due to a frozen pitch.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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