Women's Super League opens with less than pitch perfect display
Arsenal's 1-0 win over Chelsea was played in good spirits but points to problems ahead for the new WSL
Photograph: Steven Paston/Action Images
In an atmosphere that was not so much carnival as unusually-energetic-village-fete, the inaugural FA Women's Super League kicked off at Tooting & Mitcham's Imperial Fields, where the reigning domestic superpower, Arsenal, took on Chelsea in a big-name derby curtain-raiser. In front of 2,510 paying spectators, and something close to that in assorted mascots, VVIPs, sideshow impresarios, bouncy castle engineers and a heavily tooled-up media presence, Britain's first professional women's league produced a spectacle that promised much and delivered in the end an engrossing, error-strewn game in difficult playing conditions.
Arsenal won 1-0 thanks to a first-half goal from Gilly Flaherty, while Chelsea acquitted themselves well enough against the champions of 12 of the past 17 seasons to suggest a competitive summer ahead. On the whole, though, this was a rather breathless induction for the WSL, as a happy strain of pre-match chaos swirled around one of the Ryman Premier's glitziest new-build grounds. The allegedly chart-topping girl band Parade performed a peppy warm-up set, a volcano of balloons erupted into the leaden Merton skyline, a fight briefly broke out in the main stand (reassuringly, those involved were wearing the same primary school uniform) and the ESPN cameras leant a sheen of event glamour from the sidelines.
Gilded presentation aside, this was undoubtedly a historic moment. As recently as 1971, women footballers were forbidden by the Football Association from using male facilities that fell under its aegis. The Super League may be a slightly optimistic-sounding name but for the eight competing teams – Arsenal, Birmingham City, Bristol Academy FC, Chelsea, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Everton, Lincoln and Liverpool – it represents a huge step forward.
The summer scheduling is a crucial factor, although at Imperial Fields it was clear from the first whistle that this will bring problems too. An extremely dry pitch was far from ideal as both teams struggled to control the ball on a surface that bobbled and ballooned and appeared to have been drenched with builders' sand. There is a bigger point here – the FA has trumpeted its commitment to the Super League, but this was hardly a fitting stage for a nascent tele visual product that needs, above all, to assert its basic quality.
Trevor Brooking, present in his official role as FA director of football development, admitted that the pitch was a disappointment. "It is something we might have to look at as the League progresses," Brooking said at half-time. "Depending on what kind of finance comes into the league, you would hope to be able to produce slightly better pitches in future." He did, in passing; hint that the chances of the England women's team getting to play at Wembley may come under discussion again sometime soon – as they should if the FA is serious about a venture it has so far funnelled £3m into.
Source and to read Barney Ronay full article please follow link below:http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/apr/13/womens-super-league-...
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