The 31/7 email logotype in purple and orange
Hey guys,

Welcome back to another edition of 31/7. This week I've been thinking about:
  • Emma Hayes' horoscope (she's a Libra)
  • the Continental Cup match that never was
  • whether police belong at football games
  • why some clubs still won't invest in their women's side
  • ...among other things!
Thanks for reading, see y'all soon 🤠

Flora xx

Of-Fishel-ly F*cked

It's been a rollercoaster week in the Women's Super League title race. Just when we thought we were getting a big proper one, as Manchester City drew level on points with league leaders Chelsea by beating them on their own turf on Friday, the competition took another dramatic turn on Tuesday when the Blues announced that Mia Fishel has sustained an ACL injury.

Yep... the same Mia Fishel who all at Chelsea FC were hoping would fill the big goal-scoring boots of Sam Kerr, whose own ACL went flippy-floppy just last month.

It's a cruel world, for those of a Chelsea persuasion. Personally, I wouldn't be sad to see Manchester City deny the London club their fifth successive title, but it is a shame that the loss of Fishel could make the title race 10% less juicy.

I'm thinking of Williamson and Mead and the sad 1-0 at Stadium Australia. One major injury is difficult to absorb, but two is a giant slap in the fates. And the loss of Fishel is a double blow for Blues manager Emma Hayes, who might have had her in her plans for the Olympics when she takes charge of the US women's national team at the end of the season.

Terrible news for Levante FC, too. If Fishel's ACL had gone four weeks ago, they could have stuck another zero on the end of the record-breaking fee that the Blues paid for the services of Colombian striker Mayra Ramírez.

Conti Cup Boo-Boo of the Week

Last week, Jonas Eidevall criticised the way that the FA seem to be making up the rules of the Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup as they go along.

Well, the improvising idiots are at it again. On Thursday, Watford announced that their dead rubber group game against Lewes has been cancelled.

The game had been due to take place at the end of January but due to — you guessed it — a waterlogged pitch, it had been postponed. Between the postponement and the rearrangement, other matches decided that neither side would make it through, regardless of the outcome of their head-to-head.

Nothing was to be decided by the match, and the availability of venues was also an issue, so the cancellation was logical, though that didn't stop fans complaining that it indicated how no one takes women's football seriously 😡

What’s more, the two teams are both battling relegation from the Championship, while two other teams who are facing the drop, Reading and London City Lionesses, completed a full set of Conti Cup group games, so might not be best pleased that their rivals get fresher legs for the run-in because of a soggy pitch and being a bit shit.

What will the Conti Cup rulemakers get wrong next?

Risk Management

Elsewhere in embarrassing women’s football cancellations…

On Saturday, a bunch of Celtic fans preparing to attend the Old Firm Derby at the home of rivals Rangers were disappointed as all away fans’ tickets were cancelled at 24 hours’ notice.

With roots in religious and political division, the Glaswegian clubs have one of the fiercest rivalries in world football, and men’s fixtures are riddled with violence and aggression. Fortunately, women’s football hasn’t got such a history, so you wouldn’t expect the ladies facing off to be the source of any trouble... right?
Wrong. The clubs received intelligence on Thursday that a high number of ‘risk’ supporters had purchased tickets for the clash. That’s alright, though, they’re used to fans behaving badly up in Glasgow, right? Uh, sure. But it looks like Rangers were reluctant to bring the heavies into a fixture which they hoped would be a fun-filled afternoon for all of the family.

In an official club statement, Celtic said: “the decision to deny access to so many fans is hugely disappointing, even more so given that there were a number of options available to the home club [Rangers] to allow our fans to safely attend.”

This implies that they were able to request the police resources needed to handle the ‘risk’ supporters at short notice, but opted not to, preferring to delete a problem rather than find a solution.

I think it’s fair. Seeing a drunken lout light an illegal flare, or throw a punch, and then get wrestled to the ground by a bobby makes for not much more of fun afternoon than seeing him proceed uncontested if you're a child who showed up to watch women play football. But it’s a shame they didn’t think about either of those eventualities a little earlier than the days before the game was due to take place.

Whatever went on behind closed doors, Celtic defender Caitlin Hayes was not happy. During the match, she lifted up her shirt to reveal a message which read: ‘football without fans is nothing’.
She later shared a photo of her protest on Twitter with a caption which slated the damage to the reputation of the women’s game and Rangers’ failure to properly host the match, mourning the opportunity lost by many young fans to be inspired by Scotland’s biggest club fixture.

The pinned tweet on Hayes’ profile reads: “I grew up in the generation where a dream was limited by gender, where there was no representation on the greatest of stages and fans only expanded as far as friends and family.

"To now; where gender holds no boundaries, stages are shared and fans see a badge, that they will to do well. Times are changing and with that I say; dream that dream that’s now yours to dream ghirls… Paradise is yours too, it’s the only team for me and you.”

It's a great example of how growing the women's game requires more care and attention than simply opening the doors and saying 'come one, come all'. Without due thought, the greatest of stages can do more harm than good.

Wobble Hall Park

Everyone was wowed this weekend when Arsenal broke the Women’s Super League attendance record by attracting 60,000+ fans to their showdown with Manchester United.

But as the failures of the Old Firm Derby showed, women’s footeh isn’t thriving universally. Everton are struggling. Telegraph reporter Tom Garry wrote that less than one thousand fans showed up to watch the Toffees draw with West Ham United this weekend, and if you take a look at their home ground, Walton Hall Park, it’s not hard to see why.

“It is a ground that, for the most part, has no roof,” Garry writes. “Behind the two teams’ technical areas, television cameras are perched on scaffolding. The temporary structure appears to wobble in the wind…. There are no terraces around about 80 percent of the pitch.”
This weekend, my Leeds Hyde Park teammates and I played away at Farsley Celtic, who are attached to a step 6 men’s side with a half-decent ground known as ‘the Citadel’. It was a far cry from the boggy recreational ground, without changing rooms or even a toilet, where we play our home fixtures, and a much nicer all round experience than we are used to, both for us as players and supporters who came along to watch.

Facilities matter, and Everton can’t spare a single dime to improve their women’s ground, while they drop a tidy £760m on Bramley Moore, a new home for their men’s side (who could be relegated from the Premier League this season).

Things I dig this week

Coming Up

  • UEFA Women's Nations League
    • Four European teams will fight for the chance to compete at the Paris Olympics this summer.
    • Friday — two one-legged semi-finals, Spain v Netherlands and France v Germany.
    • Wednesday — the final and third-place play-off.
    • The two finalists will go to the Olympics — unless France (who automatically qualify as hosts) make the final, in which case the winner of the third-place play-off will also qualify.
  • The Lionesses return
    • No Nations League or dreams of the Olympics for Sarina Wiegman's lasses, who will play a duo of friendlies over in south Spain.
    • No Leah Williamson though who, after being named in her first squad since before she ruptured her ACL, has withdrawn with a 'minor' injury.
    • Friday — England v Australia, watch from 7.30pm on ITV.
    • Tuesday — England v Italy, watch from 4.15pm on ITV4.
  • Leeds Hyde Park promotion bid goes on
    • Our lot cut it fine against chasing Farsley Celtic last weekend. We scraped a point to keep promotion in our own hands, but there's still work to do.
    • We've lost just two games this season, and one defeat was inflicted by Republica, our opponents this weekend. With Farsley on our heels, we need to win all of the rest of our games to secure a place in the West Riding County Premier Division.

More at The Square Ball

Leeds United Women's player Ellie Dobson dribbling with the ball at her feet

Won with the wind

by Flora Snelson

Ponytails flapping like flags, goalkeepers’ knees knocking at deadballs. “It’s not always easy to come to the north east and play football,” said Olivia Smart.
31/7 logotype in purple and orange