Season scrapped, England seeks to keep gains in women's game

FILE - In this file photo dated Sunday, April 21, 2019, Chelsea's Erin Cuthbert, centre, and teammates celebrate scoring against Lyon during their Women's Champions League soccer match in Decines, France. The English Football Associations board have decided to determine the final standings on a points-per-game basis, Friday June 5, 2020, naming Chelsea as Womens Super League champions after the season was stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, FILE)
FILE - In this file photo dated Sunday, April 21, 2019, Chelsea's Erin Cuthbert, centre, and teammates celebrate scoring against Lyon during their Women's Champions League soccer match in Decines, France. The English Football Associations board have decided to determine the final standings on a points-per-game basis, Friday June 5, 2020, naming Chelsea as Womens Super League champions after the season was stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, FILE) (AP)

Runners-up when the season was paused, champions without playing again. It's little surprise Chelsea was fine with the Women’s Super League season being curtailed.

But determining the final standings on a points-per-game ratio, rather than on the field — due to the coronavirus pandemic — has raised questions about the commitment to the women's game in England. While the WSL was abandoned, the men’s Premier League will restart on June 17 after a 100-day suspension.

“Just because it didn’t resume doesn’t mean we’re under threat or at risk,” Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said Saturday. “I trust in the people running the league and I believe we’ll come back bigger, stronger and better from this.”

When the Blues last played — before the international break and the coronavirus shutdown — they were a point behind leader Manchester City but with a game in hand.

“They tried desperately to resume the season,” Hayes said. “Everybody has to appreciate the players too. I think it got to a period where they wanted a termination in the season and then safeguard and ring-fence everything that we worked hard towards in the women’s game — to start in a timely and safe manner for the upcoming season.”

Liverpool was pressing to finish this season after being denied the chance to climb out of last place and was relegated on a mathematical formula.

“Unfortunately we did not get the opportunity to fight for that place on the grass and it’s a difficult pill to swallow,” Liverpool manager Vicky Jepson said. “I’m very disappointed in the FA’s decision, taken with eight games of our season left.”

Liverpool is, however, on the verge of winning the Premier League. The world’s richest football league receives more than 3 billion pounds ($3.8 billion) each year from broadcasters, providing the funding for the mass COVID-19 testing now required each week to ensure players and coaches are not infected and spreading the disease. The government is also mandating strict hygiene conditions around training and games, which proved prohibitive for the WSL.