Jess Fishlock: WSL suffered 'bit of damage' due to negative headlines

By Michael PearlmanBBC Sport Wales
Jess Fishlock celebrates scoring for Reading
Jessica Fishlock is on loan at Reading from OL Reign

Reading midfielder Jessica Fishlock says a bad week "has done a bit of damage" to the Women's Super League [WSL].

A trip by players from different WSL clubs to Dubai over Christmas angered many, with three WSL games subsequently called off due to a number of positive Covid-19 tests, while Birmingham City pulled out of their fixture at Tottenham because of a shortage of available players due to injury.

The postponements came in a week where:

  • It was suggested a coin toss could be used to settle FA Cup ties.
  • Wales' record goalscorer Helen Ward said lockdown restrictions could force her into retirement.
  • The issue of who will coach Team GB at the Olympic games was clouded further.

"So much has gone on within the women's game in the last week that I personally think it has done a bit of damage," Fishlock told BBC Sport Wales.

"Not only to women's football as a whole but to the league itself here. It is a bit of a blow to those of us who want to keep the league growing."

Fishlock, Wales' most-capped player, says everyone involved needs to "learn lessons" after a week where headlines surrounding the women's game in the UK were predominantly negative.

West Ham skipper Gilly Flaherty said the players who forced the postponement of WSL matches because of their trip to Dubai "should apologise", while Manchester United boss Casey Stoney said she was "sincerely sorry" for giving her players permission to travel to Dubai.

"It is hard to talk about how this week has gone. It's the players, the clubs, the FA - for me personally they have got the decisions wrong," Fishlock said.

"It's a sad week for us involved in women's football and I'm not putting that solely on the players. It's a shame. Everyone involved is just disappointed in how it has gone.

"We are human beings before athletes and we can get things wrong. Sometimes people make wrong decisions. It was human error and that's okay, but what wasn't okay was the lack of accountability.

"I have a lot of respect for Casey Stoney. For me, that is what true leadership looks like.

"But we have to move on from this issue now."

Coin toss at West Ham v Birmingham
The tossing of a coin has been suggested as a way of settling FA Cup ties which cannot be played because of Covid-19.

'I don't know the answer, but it is not a coin toss'

The Football Association is considering how best to settle FA Cup ties in rounds two and three of a competition suspended because of coronavirus restrictions.

A coin toss and the drawing of lots are among the options being considered, with Birmingham manager Carla Ward describing the coin toss idea as "crazy."

"The suggestion of coin tosses kind of fits in with the week - everything came at the same time - but I certainly hope there is another solution," Fishlock said.

"I don't envy the people trying to make these solutions. It is far from an ideal situation.

"But I hope the coin toss idea gets thrown in the bin and they come up with something else.

"A mini-tournament? Anything that is better for the integrity of the women's game."

Helen Ward: Covid won't dictate my retirement

Ward situation is 'heartbreaking'

Fishlock has contacted long-time international team-mate Helen Ward, who tweeted that she was "seriously considering retirement" due to coronavirus restrictions.

Ward, 34, who plays for National League side Watford, is unable to train or play during the latest lockdown. This is the third time she has been unable to train since March.

"It sucks, it sucks for everyone in that situation," Fishlock said. "I reached out to Helen as I can't imagine what this must feel like and we have other players in the Wales squad in the same boat, they can't play even though they are international, elite players.

"Helen is still vital for us and I hope she can get through it and not let this derail her career.

"But at the same time, if she said she can't do this anymore, no-one would blame her. This is the third time she's had to face someone saying 'you are not elite' and shutting her down and it's heartbreaking."

Phil Neville
Phil Neville, who has been England manager since 2018, will be replaced by Netherlands Women head coach Sarina Wiegman in September

Team GB confusion

Fishlock says she has no idea who will lead Team GB at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The 34-year old previously said the Team GB coach should not be a home nations manager but there is confusion as to who will lead the side.

Baroness Sue Campbell, the Football Association's director of women's football, says outgoing England boss Phil Neville has agreed to take the role, but he could be set to depart sooner than expected for the managerial vacancy at Inter Miami.

Fishlock, one of three Wales players understood to be on a squad longlist originally named by Neville, says the players who could comprise the squad have no clue who will lead it.

"I don't know the ins and outs, we are reading the reports in the press the same as everyone else," she added.

"I don't know what is happening. England are not getting a new coach until after the Olympics, so we are reading the same thing as you guys. We just have to wait and see what that means for Team GB. I don't think anyone knows at the moment."