Sarina Wiegman: Player-coach relationships ‘very inappropriate’, says England manager

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Sarina Wiegman during a friendly last month
Sarina Wiegman selected a 23-player squad on Tuesday for Euro 2025 qualifiers against Sweden and the Republic of Ireland

England manager Sarina Wiegman has described player-coach relationships in women’s football as “very inappropriate” and “not healthy”.

Leicester City boss Willie Kirk is being investigated by the club following an allegation of a player-coach relationship.

A spokesperson for the Foxes said the 45-year-old was “assisting the club with an internal process”.

“I think player-coach relationships are very inappropriate,” said Wiegman.

“We should not accept that and it’s not healthy. That is basically what it is. In our environment, it’s a professional one. It’s all about performing and it should always be safe. Things can happen, but it’s inappropriate and we all should be very aware of that.”

BBC Sport has approached Kirk for comment regarding the allegation.

This month, every Women’s Super League club was asked about the issue, which is a long-standing problem within the game.

Aston Villa boss Carla Ward said players and coaches being in relationships was “crossing that line” and should be a sackable offence.

Player-coach relationships are not illegal – as long as no minors are involved – albeit they can breach codes of conduct.

Codes of conduct among players and managers are a condition of clubs getting a WSL licence, and every club must have a safeguarding officer in place.

Asked if the Football Association or NewCo, the company set to take over the WSL this summer, should implement a ban on player-coach relationships, Wiegman said: “I think it’s common sense and we all know if we are in this environment that it’s really inappropriate.

“If we all take [on] our responsibility, then things wouldn’t happen. But when it happens too often, then you need regulations. I will leave that to others.”

Wiegman, who selected her England squad on Tuesday for April games against Sweden and the Republic of Ireland, said it was important for any team to have established behavioural standards in place.

She said: “I just hope in every environment I work in, it’s how we work, we always talk about safe environments – this is one of the things that should be really safe – and everyone is really aware of the responsibility we have.”

The Times reportsexternal-link safeguarding policies will be reviewed, while it was announced on Tuesday that the FA and NewCo will update the government with plans to grow the women’s game, which are set to include discussions around player welfare.

Club-by-club – what have WSL managers said on player-coach relationships?

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall: “I think it’s very inappropriate for a number of reasons. It’s a clear no with relationships between player and manager.”

Aston Villa manager Carla Ward: “Our job and our duty is to protect players, first and foremost. So to cross that line is unacceptable and it can’t happen.”

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Bristol City manager Lauren Smith: “My view is that there’s no grey area. It’s unacceptable and it shouldn’t happen.”

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes: “Player-coach relationships are inappropriate. We have to look it at in the context of where the game has come from. We’re in a professional era now where the expectation in place for players and coaches is such that all of our focus and attention has got to be on having the top standards.”

Everton manager Brian Sorensen: “It’s not acceptable and it shouldn’t happen.”

Liverpool manager Matt Beard: “First and foremost, I don’t think player-coach relationships should happen.”

Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor: “I think player-coach is inappropriate. We’ve seen it happen, but when a person holds a position of power it’s really not the right thing. For me, player and staff is not acceptable.”

Manchester United assistant manager Charlotte Healy: “It’s not acceptable. Our primary job is to provide a duty of care for players. Their safety and their welfare is the most important thing. The women’s game is professional. My honest opinion is that our behaviours have to match that.”

Tottenham manager Robert Vilahamn: “I think it’s totally not acceptable. As a coach, I am in a power position with players and staff.”

Interim Brighton manager Mikey Harris said he was “not really comfortable” to answer a question about player-coach relationships, while West Ham would not allow any questions in their news conference.

Leicester City’s assistant manager Jennifer Foster said she had no further comment to make.

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