The Premier League’s rejection of West Ham United’s request to bring forward their final home fixture of the season to avoid clashing with the Women’s FA Cup Final further highlights the challenges faced by the female version the game.
The club wanted to move their match against Southampton on Saturday, May 4, from 3.00pm to 12.30pm to give fans time to see the women’s side face Manchester City at Wembley in a 5.30pm kick-off.
“Despite the club’s very best efforts, it was decided by the Premier League that it wouldn’t be possible due to the potential inconvenience caused to supporters who had already planned their journeys and purchased tickets,” West Ham said on their official website.
“Therefore, the game will remain at the originally scheduled time of 3pm. West Ham United is naturally disappointed but would like to thank all of our loyal supporters and sincerely appreciates the fantastic backing they give to all who pull on the famous claret and blue.”
West Ham Women reached the cup final for the first time by beating Reading in a thrilling penalty shoot-out last week.
They head into the final as huge underdogs having been beaten by an aggregate score of 10-2 by City in their two Women’s Super League meetings this term.
However, despite the disparity in budgets between the two sides, West Ham are hopeful of springing a surprise in the final even though they have been denied the chance to have extra support there.
The decision is even more baffling given the fact that Sky Sports’ request to move Manchester City’s Premier League fixture against Leicester City from the same Saturday to the following Monday was approved.
Disappointingly, the clash is just the latest in a series of scheduling problems that are heavily impacting the growth of the women’s game.
This Sunday, Arsenal can win the Women’s Super League when they face Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium in a 12.15pm kick-off.
The latter stages of the match will overlap with Chelsea meeting Lyon in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final at Kingsmeadow which kicks-off at 2pm.
The timing of fixtures is also an issue at international level, with England’s men’s and women’s teams heading for a potential clash on June 9.
If Gareth Southgate’s side reach the final of the Nations League tournament in Portugal, the game would take place on the same day that Phil Neville’s Lionessess’ launch their World Cup campaign against Scotland in France.
Avoiding such clashes is crucial if the women’s game is to stand a fair chance of gaining the exposure it needs to flourish in the future.
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