Emma Hayes fears government quarantine rules could disrupt the Women’s Super League and damage the mental health of overseas players unable to return home for Christmas.
Chelsea’s manager suspects the festive break will prove a draining interlude for foreign players who must either remain in England over the holiday or visit their families but then miss vital games because of the need to self isolate. The WSL stages fixtures on 20 December before breaking until 9 January and Hayes wants those matches to be moved to make them more compatible with quarantine rules.
“I’m concerned we’re not being considerate towards international players who deserve to go home for Christmas,” said Hayes, whose squad’s 11 imports include Sweden’s Magdalena Eriksson, Germany’s Ann-Katrin Berger and Norway’s Maren Mjelde. “We’re not paid millions of pounds and I believe our players should go home, but it’s really challenging.
“When you haven’t seen your families for six months, it’s really, really tough. I know a lot of players are struggling with that. We spoke with the FA about considering a change of fixtures but it’s not possible. I’m concerned because I care about our players’ wellbeing. It’s important for everyone’s mental health they go home at Christmas. I don’t want to tell any player they can’t.”
Hayes’s foreign contingent will be free to travel abroad after Chelsea’s home game with Tottenham and she accepts some will miss the defending champions’ fixture at Reading – who have five overseas players in their squad – on 10 January. Even if players have completed the period of quarantine by then, a lack of training means that involvement would carry additional risk of injury.
“There’s 21 days between the games,” said Hayes. “If there’s a 14-day quarantine and they go for five days, it means players are going to come back and play without any training.”
The Chelsea manager is renewing her call for WSL counterparts to agree a tweaking of the fixture list that was drawn up before the pandemic’s second wave struck. “Maybe we can come up with some sort of compromise,” she said. “But the shift has to be for all clubs.
“The recent government changes and more restrictions on some countries means this challenge has reared its head again. I don’t blame anyone, I’m all about finding the solution.”
However, the FA indicated that is unlikely. “We consulted with clubs over the fixtures around the Christmas period to see if the calendar could be altered,” said a spokesman. “Unfortunately, a consensus could not be agreed.”