Chelsea Women boss Emma Hayes has shut down rumours linking her to the AFC Wimbledon job and called the reports an “insult” to women’s football.
The Sky Bet League One side parted company with manager Glyn Hodges and his assistant Nick Daws by mutual consent following Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to fierce rivals MK Dons at Plough Lane, which left them 21st in the 24-team table after 25 games.
Hayes had been linked with the vacancy – which would see her become the first woman to manage a professional men’s team in English football – but speaking on Tuesday, she insisted Wimbledon would not be able to afford her and she is happy at Chelsea, where she has won three WSL titles and two Women’s FA Cups in eight-and-a-half-years at the helm.
“Women’s football is something to celebrate, and the quality and the achievement of all the females I represent… it’s an insult to them that we talk about women’s football being a step down, with the dedication and the commitment and the quality they have,” Hayes said.
“Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder, Beth England, Magda Eriksson, Millie Bright, Maren Mjelde – do you want me to keep going? These are world-class players, and women’s football is not a step down from anything.”
Asked if Wimbledon could afford her, Hayes added: “Absolutely not.
“First of all, I am the manager of Chelsea. I manage and represent elite, world-class players and this for me is an amazing job. I’ve spent the last nine years cultivating all my energy into it.
“I’m not looking for another job. I’m blessed with working with wonderful humans day in day out, and I think it’s important for me to say this: when the football world is ready to adhere to the diversity codes, so that BAME communities plus women get the opportunities in men’s football, I will see that as a step forward.
“This is not a conversation about Emma Hayes and AFC Wimbledon. We should be having larger conversations about creating opportunities across a diverse spectrum so that opportunities in the men’s game are not limited to those in privileged positions.
“I don’t know why anyone would think women’s football is a step down [in comparison to men]. The football world needs to wake up. While the game is played by a different gender, it’s exactly the same sport.”
WSL leaders Chelsea, who won the 2019/20 title, recently set a league record of 32 matches unbeaten after beating Aston Villa 4-0, and have now gone 33 games without defeat following their 4-0 victory over Tottenham on Sunday.
“This team will go down in history, I’m certain of it,” Hayes said after setting the record against Villa. “I know when you’re winning a lot there’s just this expectation you’re going to keep doing it, but this is the best Chelsea team I’ve ever had.”
Hayes was linked to the Chelsea men’s job in 2019 after Maurizio Sarri left the club, but the Stamford Bridge hierarchy instead opted for club legend Frank Lampard, who was recently replaced himself by Thomas Tuchel.
The Sunday Supplement panel discussed the Hayes rumour at the time, with The Mail on Sunday’s Rob Draper saying: “There will be a woman in charge of a men’s professional club and eventually a Premier League club [at some point].
“It’s just logical that the gifts of management, motivation and football knowledge are not confined to the male sex. There may be as many women who are good at that as there are men.”
Hayes: Football has a responsibility to modernise
Hayes feels football “has a responsibility to modernise” not just for women, but for people from ethnic minorities too.
“The football world needs to live by its promises and live by the diversity codes,” she added. “They need to be promoting opportunities for the less privileged. That’s what I want to see.
“It should be a normal conversation to talk about coaches from Asian backgrounds, coaches from Black backgrounds, female coaches in [men’s] dressing rooms. Not as an exception to the rule, but something that is normal.
“That action needs to be enforced, there are so many quality candidates who can do a job in the men’s game. Football as a profession has a responsibility to modernise.
“The hope is – if you look at the top organisations in any top professions – you will see that having balance in the workplace is tantamount to successful environments.”