Turbine Potsdam's Bundesliga game against Bayern Munich has been canceled due to a frozen and therefore unplayable pitch. This is just one example of the infrastructural problems in the women's Bundesliga.
Turbine Potsdam against Bayern Munich has to be canceled at short notice. Reason: the field is unplayable
Turbine Potsdam actually wanted to restart the Bundesliga with a courageous performance against the highly favored FC Bayern Munich – and the meager yield of just one point from the first ten games touch up a bit.
But Turbine has to be patient because the game didn't take place at all: It was canceled a good hour before kick-off because the grass was frozen. That finally raises the question of what progress the women's Bundesliga has actually made in recent years. While in Germany for the first three divisions of men's soccer a pitch heating is mandatory, this is not the case for the women's Bundesliga – their highest league.
Nevertheless, most of the twelve Bundesliga teams play on pitches with undersoil heating. However, for a financially weak club like Turbine Potsdam, one of only two women's clubs in the league that cannot fall back on the resources of a men's team, this is currently an unthinkable luxury.
Referees decide whether the pitch is playable< /h2>
Despite the efforts to professionalize the league and its structures, the reality in German women's football is still far removed from that in the lower divisions of men. In practice, this means that occasional game cancellations are inevitable. In accordance with German Football Association (DFB) regulations, referees have the final say in canceling a game if they believe the safety of the players could be at risk – as was the case in Potsdam.
Many spectators are already there when the event is cancelled, but have to make their way home
The decision not to play on a rock-hard pitch was the right one. It was less understandable that this decision was made just under an hour before kick-off. While the Babelsberg 03 men's team had played in the same stadium the previous afternoon without incident, the pitch was frozen overnight. So on the morning of Turbine's game, the league would have had plenty of time to make a decision about the playability of the turf. Instead, a lack of transparency and urgency unnecessarily led to the game being canceled at the last minute.
Fans take cancellation with gallows humor
However, many fans who flocked to Potsdam's Karl Liebknecht Stadium didn't seem too disappointed with the decision. It was decided that a visit to the stadium without football justifies the consumption of a mulled wine or a bratwurst.
“Something like this can happen,” was often heard from the Turbine fans, for whom the canceled game was just another item in a long list of things that went wrong this season. A fan who had traveled the 100 kilometers from Cottbus with his family joked to DW: “At least Potsdam didn't lose today!”
Turbine assistant coach Dirk Heinrichs, who is in charge of the club's search for a new head coach, took the postponement with similar equanimity. “In Potsdam it's always a challenge to play games at the Karl Liebknecht Stadium at this time of year. But we have to live with that. We're already preparing for the next game on Friday and are hoping for good weather,” he told DW.
Opponent Bayern Munich was far less amused. “The game was very important for us to keep the pressure [on Wolfsburg] up. It's extremely frustrating and really bitter,” said the club's sporting director, Bianca Rech, after the decision to the broadcaster “Magenta Sport”.
“We were in talks with the German Football Association because we knew it could be an issue. We even asked if we could swap home games. But nothing came of it. That would have been great can run better”, continues Rech, especially at a time “when we are talking about wanting to make the league more professional.”
Outcry in England, indifference in Germany
In fact, in early February, the DFB will publish a report on the progress of the women's Bundesliga over the past year. It is unclear whether the report will highlight the ongoing infrastructural deficit in women's football, the growing financial gap, or the league's inability to make decisions in a timely manner and communicate them to all stakeholders.
Neither the league nor the football association have commented on the late cancellation of the game. Aside from the frustration of the Bayern players – and of course the fans who made the journey – the most common reaction was one of shrugging resignation. However, when a Women's Super League (WSL) game between Chelsea and Liverpool was abandoned after six minutes of play in England in similar weather in January, there was a big outcry.
Chelsea coach Emma Hayes told Sky Sports afterwards : “WSL is on the same level as the Premier League – just because we're women doesn't mean we shouldn't be given the same access.”
Wolfsburg's star striker Ewa Pajor recently told DW, she considers the Bundesliga to be the “best league in the world”. For this opinion to prevail, however, the league must not only improve its infrastructure, but also take itself, its clubs and its fans more seriously.
The text has been adapted from English.