By Abi Curran
Three Women’s Super League titles and two Women’s FA Cups make Emma Hayes’ CV very good reading. This is added to the culture she has created at Chelsea FCW, managing world champions, Olympians and an array of talent that has been curated at the club. So, why then was Hayes linked to AFC Wimbledon, a struggling League One side, finding themselves in a mid-season relegation battle after a string of poor results?
Emma Hayes’ Chelsea side currently reside at the top of the Women’s Super League. As it stands, they are perched five points clear of second-placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand. Clearly, they are looking to build upon their success over the past eight years with Hayes at the helm.
This season, with sights firmly on Europe, it is highly doubtful that Hayes would leave the club on her own accord without lifting that Champions League Trophy.
With all due respect to Wimbledon, to suggest Hayes as a replacement to Glyn Hodges is insulting. The rumours themselves do not appear to have come from the most reliable of sources but, nevertheless, the media attention that these murmurs have gained reinforces the idea that the women’s game is not treated with anywhere near as much respect as the men’s game is.
Hayes’ success as Chelsea Manager, on and off the pitch, proves that she might just be reaching the pinnacle of her career, managing such a successful group of professionals. To suggest that the ultimate zenith to her career would lie in the lower leagues of the men’s game is quite bizarre and undermines the respective talent of the likes of Chelsea stars Beth England and Magda Eriksson.
Indeed, it would be a progressive move to have a female manager within the men’s game; I hope that football diversifies in this sense within my lifetime. However, the talking point of the rumours was not Hayes’ managing ability but rather her gender, something that defeats the premise of such an appointment.
In an interview, Hayes discussed the rumour saying, ‘[what with] The quality and achievements of all the females I represent, it’s an insult to them and the dedication, the commitment and the quality that they have that we talk about women’s football being a step down. I think that’s what I’m disappointed with, not being linked to a football job as a football coach, regardless of gender.’
In a wider context, this whole ordeal represents a much larger double standard and Chelsea is a good example to look at. Take Frank Lampard: somebody with limited managerial experience with Derby County (who failed to win in the play-offs) waltzing quite easily into a side competing, at least, for a Premier League top-four finish.
He might be a Chelsea legend, but we all know the conclusion of this appointment. The same can be said about the ease at which Phil Neville, with no prior experience as a head coach, was appointed as England manager within the women’s game.
Think about how much of a field day a normal HR department would have if they operated an equal opportunities policy regarding the managerial appointments for men’s sides.
Managers should be appointed on merit and if it just so happens that a woman might have the experience to lead an equivalent men’s team to success, I don’t see why this should be such a huge issue.
Gender should not be a barrier to how players are managed. If this is the case, it is quite clear that attitudes within the game need to shift. Although this may take some time, for now, the talent of managers like Emma Hayes should be celebrated by the footballing world and perhaps Hayes herself deserves a bit more respect than being linked to a struggling League One side.
Image: Lee Fraser via Creative Commons