Sport

Opinion: Hayes’ Wimbledon link is by no means ‘bad for gender equality’

A piece published by Mancunian Matters this week — written by my esteemed colleague Milly McEvoy — said that Chelsea Womens manager Emma Hayes being linked with the AFC Wimbledon job was ‘bad for gender equality’.

She wrote: “If a person was managing the Premier League leaders and current champions, they would never be linked with a job at a League One club who are a point from safety.”

This is absolutely correct.

Alas, Emma Hayes is not managing the Premier League leaders or current champions.

Take Vinko Marinović, for example.

You’ve probably never heard of him, but he is the manager of Sarajevo in the Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Marinović led his side to the league title last season and sits undefeated at the summit this term.

I didn’t hear his name mentioned when Chelsea sacked Frank Lampard last week and I don’t see him on any lists for English jobs at any level.

Nor should I.

His side compete (albeit briefly) in the men’s UEFA Champions League — but that doesn’t mean anything as the standard of his team and the league in which they compete is a million miles from England’s elite.

We ought to be realistic about standard and experience before declaring that persons coaching a lesser calibre of footballer in a less pressurised environment should be hot housed to lofty heights at which they’re completely unproven based on factors aside from role suitability.

The standard in the upper echelons of the Womens Super League is not comparable to that of the Premier League or Championship — that is fact.

I’m by no means saying that Hayes wouldn’t make an excellent Chelsea men’s manager — there is every chance that she would — I’m exploring why waiting for such an opportunity to arise could well be eternal.

An impressive National League manager or head coach can expect to be linked with clubs in the bottom half of League One, if they’re lucky.

It’s natural progression.

The same goes for youth team coaches — one could bleed into the Premier League an array of wonderful young talent, winning countless Youth FA Cups and titles along the way.

Would you expect said coach to be the favourite for the Manchester City job?

Or would you expect that coach, should he/she wish to make the step up into the elite men’s game, to set his/her sights a little lower to gain valuable experience they can take further up the leagues in future?

I hope that Emma Hayes does indeed find her way into the men’s game, I think it would be a positive step for football and representation in the sport — but let us not get carried away.

Hayes is qualified and to suggest she wouldn’t be of great use to a men’s team would be reprehensible.

She holds a UEFA Pro License (the top coaching badge available) and is enjoying extraordinary success at Chelsea — sure — but insinuating that she should be in the running for Premier League, or even Championship jobs is an absurd proposition.

Hayes said on Monday: “I think we spend too much time talking about gender and ethnicity instead of quality of candidate.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Phil Neville led England Women to the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup — before leaving to take the Inter Miami job in the MLS — this feels like a step up but still of no comparison to the quality on display across the Premier League.

Gareth Southgate, who reached the same stage of the same competition with the men’s team in 2018 will, I’m almost certain, be heavily linked with most jobs in the Premier League’s top 10 upon his England departure.

Is that about gender?

Or is it about two England managers with totally different routes to the top of club football as a result of quality of candidate?

Hayes, should she feel the time is right (having ruled herself out of the running for the aforementioned men’s AFC Wimbledon job), would be better served taking the same route to the top that the vast majority of other manager’s do.

If you were managing a semi-pro side and the opportunity to leap into the National League or League Two came up, you’d be foolish not to jump at the chance.

The same should go for Hayes.

Ms McEvoy ends with: “Thankfully with women like Hayes at the top of football knowing her worth, we’re closer to gender equality than this AFC Wimbledon debacle would have you believe.”

I’m a little confused by this and little progress is made by branding such links a ‘debacle’.

Are we criticizing the cheek of AFC Wimbledon for considering making Hayes the first female manager of a club on the British professional pyramid?

If they want to do that, they have every right to attempt to cherry pick the very best in the business from the WSL.

Had Hayes been offered and accepted the AFC Wimbledon job, we would be talking with excitement about how brilliant a move it was for both the sport and individual.

Success at Wimbledon could have proved the catalyst for an influx of female managers in men’s football — isn’t that what everyone wants?

We’re surely not suggesting that if Manchester United head coach Casey Stoney, for example, were to take the Forest Green Rovers job in League Two, she’d be damaging the reputation of the women’s game.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news — but Manchester United F.C. and Manchester United W.F.C. are not the same task.

I think we’d be applauding Forest Green and wishing Stoney every success in her new position — which could foreshadow a springboard of integration and representation in professional football — based on merit and nothing else.

Football management is an incredibly competitive and difficult career path, in both the men’s and women’s games — but to claim that WSL managers are above managing in League’s One and Two is both a disrespectful and vastly unhelpful doctrine.  

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