The possibility to become the first woman to ever manage a professional men’s team in English football was turned down this week by 44-year-old Emma Hayes, the manager of FA WSL club Chelsea Women.

Sexism in the game

League One team, AFC Wimbledon, are searching for a new manager after parting ways with Glyn Hodges following a 2-0 loss to bitter rivals MK Dons, which left them with 9 defeats in their last 11 games.

Emma Hayes was among the prospective candidates, alongside big names such as Joey Barton and Ian Holloway.

The Chelsea Women’s boss holds an impressive 33-match unbeaten record in the Women’s Super League, earning her the status of role model to many young girls who are interested in the sport.

Whilst this would have been a monumental step towards gender equality in sport management, the backlash that ensued from the rumours linking Hayes to the job reaffirmed some trenchant sexist attitudes.

Some claimed that taking the job to manage AFC Wimbledon, would be a step up from her current role in the Women’s Super League. Hayes was quick to recognise the sexist nature of these comments, saying that the notion that women’s football is a step down from the men’s game is ‘an insult’.

A ‘men’s’ sport?

The devaluation of women’s football is undeniable. Saying that League One is ‘elite football’ simply because it is played by men is a chauvinistic stance. We shouldn’t disparage the achievements of managers such as Emma Hayes just because she happens to be a woman and because she manages a women’s team.

Football is football, regardless of who is playing. Gender shouldn’t determine the measure of our respect. Women have been playing football since 1895. Women’s football is being played all over Britain, and every single game of the 2019/20 FA Women’s Super League was televised live. It is no longer a valid argument to say that football is a men’s sport.

But Twitter’s keyboard warriors were relentless.

Comments included: ‘at least the kits will be clean and ironed’ and ‘she will be making cups of teas after 5 games’. One went as far as to suggest that appointing Hayes as manager would ‘just give us more reason to think women’s football is more of a laughing stock than we once thought’.

The argument that appointing a female manager will just cause unnecessary drama and conflict is outdated. Whilst the dynamics of the sport as we know it would be changed once we start opening up positions of power to those who are underrepresented, it is plain myopic to hold the view that someone like Hayes is less capable of doing her job well just because of her gender.

This discussion goes beyond Emma Hayes and AFC Wimbledon. It is crucial that we begin creating opportunities for women across a more diverse spectrum. The world of football needs to move forward with the progressive attitudes of the 21st century.

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