Lack of female coaches ‘a massive issue’ – Emma Hayes

47

Chelsea’s departing manager, Emma Hayes, highlights the significant concern of the scarcity of female coaches within English football, emphasizing the need for the sport to devise more innovative solutions to tackle this issue.

According to her, they ought to include “minimum standards” for professional teams regarding the employment of female coaches as well as increased assistance to enable women to pay for their education.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to close that gap,” Hayes said.

The 47-year-old, who guided the winners to their fourth straight Women’s Super League (WSL) championship last season, will take over as manager of the USA women’s national team come summertime.

Only 21 women in England hold a Uefa Pro License, and Hayes is one of only three female managers in the WSL.

“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’

Even though the number of girls and women playing football in England has increased dramatically in recent years, there are still not many female coaches at the top of the sport, and no female first-team coach has been appointed permanently in the men’s professional game.

Along with Hayes, the only other female head coaches in the WSL are Carla Ward of Aston Villa, Rehanne Skinner of West Ham, and Lauren Smith of Bristol City, following Brighton’s dismissal of Melissa Phillips last week. Six female bosses compete in the Women’s Championship division.

“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.”

Despite the rise of role models like Hayes and England coach Sarina Wiegman, the League Managers’ Association (LMA) told BBC Sport that there was currently a “vital need for significant improvement” in the number of trained women managers.

It stated that once an independent organization known as “NewCo” assumes control of the top two divisions in the women’s professional club game this year, “significant consideration” should be given to making the employment of a qualified female head or assistant coach an obligatory condition. According to the LMA, “the lawfulness” of such an action “can be implemented provided certain conditions are met.”

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.”

As part of its strategy for the women’s game, the FA states it has committed to grassroots coach development and reports an 83% increase in the number of female coaches with Level 1 credentials and higher over the previous two years.

‘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.”