Women’s game ‘pushed aside’ says former Arsenal star Smith

Arsenal's Kelly Smith celebrates with the FA Cup trophy.

Arsenal's Kelly Smith celebrates with the FA Cup trophy. - Credit: PA

Former Arsenal and England striker Kelly Smith believes the women’s game has been ‘pushed aside’ after the decision was taken to end the English domestic season.

Great Britain's Kelly Smith (right) and Cameroon's Christine Manie battle for the ball during the Lo

Great Britain's Kelly Smith (right) and Cameroon's Christine Manie battle for the ball during the London 2012 Olympics - Credit: PA

The Women’s Super League and Championship campaigns were brought to an early end on May 25 amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Chelsea confirmed as WSL champions on a points-per-game basis.

The Football Association said at the time the season was curtailed that the decision was made following “overwhelming feedback” from the clubs and the move was “in the best interests of the women’s game”.

Smith was disappointed the financial commitment to continue the men’s game, which has included the Premier League centrally funding the reported £4million cost of coronavirus testing in an attempt to get the 2019-20 completed, was lacking at WSL level.

“I was hearing figures of £3million and upwards for testing and putting procedures in place just to get back into training,” Smith told PA.

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“That figure in the women’s game in this country is unheard of, and I don’t know if the FA would have been happy to put the money towards that, rather than just write the season off and go again.

“I would’ve preferred they had gone the route of putting the money in and making it more of a level playing field with the men. It just seems to always happen that the women get pushed aside a bit, and it’s unfortunate.”

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Smith said it was a “sad” way for the season to end and felt even for Chelsea the championship would have tasted less sweet than securing it on the pitch.

“I do feel an injustice for Liverpool being relegated, because they would have felt like they could have got out of that situation at the bottom of the league with about eight games to go,” she added.

“I also feel sorry for Arsenal because they missed out on a Champions League spot. It’s a sad way to end the season and certain clubs are going to be hurting because of that.

“I’m sure Chelsea would’ve preferred the season to be finished and be called outright champions rather than it being just given to you like that because you were the best team at that point in time.”

The WSL is targeting a start date of September 5 for the 2020-21 campaign.

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