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Casey Stoney fears for her players welfare

Manchester United manager Casey Stoney has questioned the packed fixture schedule surrounding women’s football in recent weeks.

Stoney’s comments came prior to their Continental Cup clash with Liverpool, which they subsequently lost 3-1, having only faced Brighton in the Women’s Super League just three games before.

“I’m a little bit frustrated we are playing three-game weeks,” said Stoney. ““We just had three weeks off, we are coming back into a season. The unpredictability of the game you can’t train for, so we are going to pick up niggles.

“I’m fortunate, I’ve got a very capable squad. I look at others with less resources and players and think: ‘How are they going to cope this week?’ How are the Birmingham’s going to cope? And they have been in the FA Cup as well.

“It is just a lot of strain and I don’t think player welfare is being considered very well if I’m honest.”

Manchester United are not the only side to have had to battle a busy schedule as football looks to slowly return back to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic brought it to an abrupt halt earlier this year.

Birmingham also had to face Brighton in the competition, making it a run of five fixtures in 15 days, of which the first two were a quarter-final and semi-final of the FA Cup from last season. Carla Ward, the Birmingham manager called the scheduling “ridiculous”, prompting Stoney to bring to light her concerns for players’ welfare.

“I was in agreement. Some of the players in that team, it’s their biggest game. You gave them one day’s preparation. Then they are playing again the following Sunday.

“I get that they wanted to complete the FA Cup. But staging it when the players are fresh is important for the quality of the product we are trying to sell.

“I look at Birmingham’s schedule and I’m going: ‘Wow.’ Sunday, Wednesday, Sunday, Wednesday. We’ve not played for six months. Is that a player-centred approach? I would question that decision.”

Another talking point from the Continental Cup competition comes from fixture kick-off times, which is set by the home team for the visitors to agree upon, leaving the FA only to provide the fixture dates.

On the matter, Stoney said: “It wouldn’t happen in the men’s game, that’s all I’m saying.”

The women’s game has taken massive strides in recent years in terms of its growth and popularity, but Stoney feels that now is a vulnerable time for them to lose its already established fanbase.

“Visibility of the game is massive at the moment and I think we’re not making the game as visible as it should and could be, we’re not showing enough women’s games on BT Sport.

“Us as a club — we’re only allowed to show three [WSL] games a season [on MUTV]. That for me is a nonsense at the moment, when the game needs to be visible. So why not give us permission to show all the games? The fans can’t get in the ground.

“The game is in danger at the moment of losing the fanbase that it has, when we’re desperate to grow it.”

Author: Jake Wilkin