Scrap League Cup to grow WSL, says Hayes

Chelsea man­ager calls for more league games Stoney re­jects chance to play at Old Traf­ford

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport Football - By So­phie Pen­ney

Emma Hayes, the Chelsea man­ager, has called for the Con­ti­nen­tal League Cup con­tested by the top two di­vi­sions to be scrapped for the ben­e­fit of the Women’s Su­per League.

Hayes be­lieves the com­pe­ti­tion di­lutes the WSL just when the league is at­tempt­ing to build its brand, and sug­gested it should be re­stricted to Cham­pi­onship clubs.

Her com­ments emerged as Manch­ester United coun­ter­part Casey Stoney re­vealed her sur­prise de­ci­sion to re­ject the chance to play at Old Traf­ford be­cause she felt it would not grow United’s fan base.

Hayes’s side face Crys­tal Palace away to­mor­row in the group stage of the Con­ti­nen­tal Cup be­fore a trip to Lewes, an­other Cham­pi­onship club. “This com­pe­ti­tion, that com­pe­ti­tion… boom, one f------ league, it’s not dif­fi­cult,” she said. “Get rid of the Con­ti­nen­tal Cup, get rid of it, make more league fix­tures.”

Chelsea at­tracted a record crowd for a league game at Kingsmeado­w last week­end as over 4,000 watched them beat Arse­nal, but they must now wait five weeks for their next home match, with an in­ter­na­tional break split­ting the two Con­ti­nen­tal Cup week­ends.

“How are we go­ing to get con­ti­nu­ity?” Hayes said. “Play each other three times and if you want the Con­ti­nen­tal Cup, put it in WSL 2 [divi­sion two], or not. I don’t know what we’re do­ing. Sell the WSL! Why are we di­lut­ing our prod­uct?”

Many teams, in­clud­ing Chelsea, have been stag­ing matches at larger sta­di­ums owned by the men’s arm of their club to get more peo­ple to watch the women’s game.

Manch­ester City’s Eti­had Sta­dium wel­comed a league record crowd of over 31,000 for the first women’s Manch­ester derby, and games at Stamford Bridge and West Ham United’s Lon­don Sta­dium have at­tracted al­most 25,000 each.

So, might United an­nounce a game at Old Traf­ford? Stoney re­vealed this week that this was not go­ing to hap­pen.

‘How are we go­ing to get con­ti­nu­ity? We are di­lut­ing our prod­uct’

“The club are open to dis­cus­sions, but I’ve said no,” Stoney said. “It’s not some­thing that I want be­cause I’m very keen on grow­ing the au­di­ence here [at Leigh Sports Vil­lage] and start­ing to sell this out first, rather than do­ing a one-off game where there’s no carry-over. I watched City’s next at­ten­dance [af­ter the game at the Eti­had] and it didn’t pay off at all.”

Stoney said that even with 31,000 peo­ple, the Eti­had still felt empty. She feels her funds could be spent more ef­fec­tively and said: “It costs a lot of money to open a sta­dium like that. What I could do with that in my bud­get. I’d rather in­vest it into mar­ket­ing and get this [Leigh Sports Vil­lage] sold out con­sis­tently.”

United host City in the Con­ti­nen­tal Cup to­mor­row be­fore head­ing to Ever­ton in a fort­night. Asked about Hayes’s plea to scrap the com­pe­ti­tion, Stoney said that United did not have the same prob­lem. “I can un­der­stand that it’s dif­fi­cult when you can’t get any con­ti­nu­ity in terms of grow­ing your crowd, but we’re lucky, we’re at home and we’ve got a derby, so I’m not com­plain­ing.

“We’ve got a dif­fi­cult group this time, it still gives us a great op­por­tu­nity to play City three times, Ever­ton three times. Yes, we’d like more league games, but it’s kind of the same be­cause of the group we’re in. It means less trav­el­ling too, and it also gives you the op­por­tu­nity to try new things and to give young play­ers a chance.”

United were in the Cham­pi­onship last sea­son, so they have seen it from the per­spec­tive of a sec­ondtier side. Stoney said: “We needed it last sea­son be­cause it meant that we could play bet­ter teams.”

Group joy: Emma Hayes (right) and her play­ers cel­e­brate a League Cup vic­tory

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