There were some games of interest in NWSL play over the weekend, Portland losing for the first time for example. But the big story in the National Women’s Soccer League wasn’t on the field, no the weekend’s main talking point was the field itself. The field at Pioneer Stadium in Rochester, N.Y. that is, where the Western N.Y. Flash defeated the Seattle Reign 3-2 on Saturday night.
Pioneer Field is a baseball stadium and not the normal home field for the Flash who generally play at Rhinos Stadium. That venue was booked, however, for a concert and Pioneer Field was selected as the alternative. The blowback was immediate with Seattle Reign coach turning to twitter to give her views on the debacle.
NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush quickly released a statement of his own. “Earlier this evening, the Western New York Flash hosted a home match at a different venue due to Rhinos Stadium not being available.
The field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision.
As a professional league, we need to ensure that the integrity of the game is always respected both on and off the field. We did not do that tonight and we apologize to the NWSL players, coaches and fans. In the future, we will ensure that every NWSL match meets our standards.”
For a league that is still trying to find a foothold in the always competitive American sports landscape an event like this an an embarrassment that gives lie to the old trope that maintains that all publicity is good publicity.
Perhaps the most galling aspect of all of this is that it could have and should have been avoided. If no suitable field was available, reschedule. The league would have drawn some heat in that instance but it surely would have been preferable to this mess.