Scrap League Cup to grow WSL, says Hayes
Chelsea manager calls for more league games Stoney rejects chance to play at Old Trafford
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