Label volunteer Lorenzo Lo Vaglio looks into how Chelsea FC signed Enzo Fernandez for £106.8m but also cannot afford to heat their women’s pitch…

As introduced, Chelsea FC is retaining a lot of attention as these news stories seem to collide from an equal opportunities perspective. Indeed, some may ask themselves ‘How’s it possible?’. However, before kicking up a fuss, I think is important to know every detail (and I’m not referring to Enzo Fernandez’s transfer).

First, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes stated that what happened ‘is not on Chelsea Football Club’, which means she tacitly implies that the blame is on the National Federation (the FA) if women’s football doesn’t have the same opportunities as men’s. And if you look at the regulations for men’s and women’s football, they are completely different.

Indeed, whilst on the PL regulations 22/23 (provision K.22 under PITCH section) it is explicitly required that ‘Each Club shall provide and maintain at its Stadium an undersoil heating system for its pitch and shall ensure, so far as is reasonably possible, that the pitch is playable on the occasion of each home League Match’, the WSL regulations don’t include the same provision.

Therefore, Chelsea FC plc is not legally required to have a heating undersoil system for Kingsmeadow football stadium and this would confirm what the manager says, that the blame is on the FA.

On the other hand, some may argue that a professional team is expected to have an undersoil heating system, whether it is required by regulations or not, which is what the Chelsea FC women’s team is asking for.

From a financial point of view, it may be worth saying that Chelsea FC Women Limited, which we may call ‘the women’s team’ is registered as a subsidiary company held at 100% by Chelsea FC plc, which we may colloquially call ‘the men’s team’. This means that there aren’t two management teams and two board councils but just one of each. And if you look at resource allocation, it is clear that there is a huge disparity between the two teams and therefore an enormous problem of bad management arises (which was already evident due to the Chelsea FC men’s team’s recent problems with Financial Fair Play regulations).

But, playing the devil’s advocate, you could argue that from an economical perspective, a costly undersoil heating system is not justified by the company’s returns. Indeed, Chelsea FC Women’s matchday ticket revenue is around £100k per match. Moreover, the total broadcasting revenue for Chelsea’s WSL matches over an entire season is £7/8 million. With sponsorships and all, Chelsea Fc Women Limited would be more than lucky to invoice £10 million in revenue for a year. Therefore, an investment starting from £8 million for an undersoil heating system is not economically justifiable or sustainable.

This is because most of the costs (e.g. plant and equipment, transports, maintenance and even women’s player registration fees) are sustained by Chelsea’s “men’s team”. It is clear how for a professional football club already in difficulty due to FFP regulations results difficult to spend non-repayable £8 million on a system which would also require maintenance costs, which flow around £3000 a week or £150k a year.

This whole situation highlights a lack of responsibility from the Chelsea Fc Management team and a hole in the WSL regulations for which the FA is the only one to blame. Moreover, it must be said that manager Emma Hayes was right to disagree with the officials, as a document redacted and approved by the FA in 2017 explicitly entitled ‘RECOMMENDED PROCEDURE FOR THE GUIDANCE OF CLUBS and REFEREES IN DETERMINING THE SUITABILITY OF GROUNDS IN ADVERSE WEATHER CONDITIONS’ says that ‘If, after consultation with the match referee, the ground has been declared fit and the clubs instructed to travel, then only in exceptional circumstances should the match referee reverse this decision’.

As an inspection was conducted in the morning and the pitch was declared fit, this is a break of the rules imposed by the FA from the officials. Anyway, in this specific case remains unknown the position of the two teams and the home team Secretary to play, which is an important detail as ‘When the weather conditions are known to be extreme e.g. prolonged severe frost or heavy snow then the game can be postponed at the discretion of the home club after consultation with the Secretary’.

Indeed, if the home team (Chelsea Fc Women) officially declared by telephone their will to suspend the match to the referee a long time before the pitch inspection, this is another break of regulations from the officials as there was the possibility to communicate the suspension of the match to the other team (Liverpool Fc) in time for them not to begin their journey (which costs money to the clubs), as ‘the latest is one hour before the time the visiting team are scheduled to commence their journey’.

In theory, Chelsea Fc has the right to appeal the suspension decision to the County FA. In conclusion, I would not link the transfer of Enzo Fernandez with a willingness to scuttle women’s football, but I would certainly say that Chelsea’s management lacks equilibrium and a lot is to be made to ensure equal opportunities in football, especially in the United Kingdom.

Edited by – Jasmine Trapnell (Sports Editor)

Designed by – Sarim Mangi (Head of Design)


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