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Outgoing Chelsea manager Emma Hayes says a lack of female coaches in English football is “a massive issue” and urged the game to “come up with more creative ways” to address it.
She says these should include “minimum standards” for professional clubs around the hiring of female coaches, and more support to help women afford the cost of gaining qualifications
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to close that gap” Hayes said.
The 47 year-old led the champions to a fourth consecutive Women’s Super League (WSL) title last season, and will become the next USA women’s national team manager in the summer.
But only a third of WSL clubs have female managers, and Hayes is one of only 21 women across England with a Uefa Pro License.
“We have to recognise that the opportunities are few and far between. We need to think of different ways to educate women from a younger age”, she told BBC Sport.
In a wide-ranging interview, Hayes also said;
- It would be “incredible” if Chelsea could win a fifth straight title – or the Champions League for the first time – in her 12th and final season in charge.
- That she owes it “to Chelsea and the players to give them absolutely everything” before taking charge of the US team.
- She will “pinch myself a few times” when she starts her new job at the Paris Olympics this summer “because it’s the stuff that dreams are made of”.
- The women’s game “is at the very beginning of becoming a humongous sport”.
‘Vital need for significant improvement’
Despite a dramatic increase in the number of girls and women playing football in England in recent years, there are few female coaches at the top of the sport, and the men’s professional game is yet to see the permanent appointment of a female first-team coach.
Following Brighton’s sacking of Melissa Phillips last week, Carla Ward (Aston Villa), Rehanne Skinner (West Ham), and Lauren Smith (Bristol City) are the only other female head coaches in the WSL, alongside Hayes. There are six female bosses in the Women’s Championship.
“We have to look at the cost of it as a starting point” said Hayes, who is an ambassador for Fun Football – a programme aiming to tackle under-representation in the sport, including the training of female coaches.
“It’s about £10,000 to do a Pro Licence. And the wages in the women’s game are insignificant compared to the men’s game.
“We have to think about educating players much earlier on in their careers, maybe even during international breaks where there’s more downtime… and most importantly, support so that they can go through the coach education. We have to commit more money to coaches, not just in the women’s game, but women coaches in general.”
The League Managers’ Association (LMA) told BBC Sport that, despite the emergence of role models such as Hayes and England coach Sarina Wiegman, there was now a “vital need for significant improvement” in the number of qualified women coaches.
It said that in the women’s professional club game “significant consideration” should be given to making the employment of a qualified female head or assistant coach a mandatory requirement, once an independent body known as ‘NewCo’ takes over the top two divisions in the game this year.
When asked if the time had come for such a move, Hayes said: “I think so… it’s about creating minimum standards so that the accessibility for women to come into the game is thought about differently… getting clubs to be in position so that they have minimum standards in place to hire women into the game, be it assistant or head coach level. But doing that is a challenge.”
When asked if she would prefer her replacement at Chelsea to be a woman, Hayes replied: “It’s about the club and what their needs are. It’s probably best that I stay out of that and just support that person.”
‘The stuff that dreams are made of’
Under Hayes, Chelsea have won six WSL titles, five FA Cups and two League Cups since 2015. They are top of the WSL and have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League, and the manager says winning either would be “incredible”.
“To keep winning, like we have done for so many years, will be a challenge in itself” she said. “But to do it knowing that there’s change coming at the end of the year, will be a real credit and a testament to the players to be able to stay focused.”
Hayes will become the best-paid female manager in the world and one of the highest-profile figures in US sport when she joins the four-time world champions in the summer, but says she has not “thought about anything beyond this season because I simply don’t have the time”.
“Of course, I’ll be excited. To be able to return to a country that I grew up coaching in, and now get the opportunity to lead that nation. It’ll be a massively proud moment for me and my family. Come the summer, I’m sure I’ll pinch myself a few times because it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.”
When asked what the biggest changes had been during her tenure at Chelsea, Hayes said: “We’re so much more front and centre, [from] being able to access a game on TV, to the growing numbers attending games.
“On a commercial level, the tipping point for that transition was the 2022 Euros. I’m almost certain that within the next 12 months, some clubs in England will break even and even make profit. That was unthinkable 11 years ago.”