Hayes & Harlington Gazette

Hayes hits out at equal opportunit­ies for young footballer­s


EMMA Hayes branded women’s football as “middle class” as she expressed her concerns about the difference in opportunit­ies for girls and boys to play football at primary school.

The UK Government launched a review in September into domestic women’s football from grassroots to the elite level, following the success of England at Euro 2022.

The Lionesses received plenty of plaudits for last summer’s success, but concerns have been raised about a lack of diversity in the squad, something Hayes believes starts at the grassroots level of the game.

“Boys, generally, in the academy game, they’re having parents that are taking them somewhere or they will get on trains to do it. Girls won’t,” the Chelsea manager said. “Families won’t let the girls go to games.

“Women’s football is quite middle class in my opinion, in terms of the locations, and the pedigree of players that are coming are often coming from suburban, urban belts around the training grounds.

“They’re not the Alex Scotts, the Rachel Yankeys – (they’re) not coming to our facilities in the same way.”

Hayes, who was asked to contribute to the women’s football review, added: “We should be thinking differentl­y, to reflect on the fact that if you want a diverse group involved with our game at an elite level, then perhaps we should be travelling into the cities more.”

In August, following their Euro 2022 success, the Lionesses wrote an open letter to the thenPrime Minister appealing for girls to have the opportunit­y to play football at school, citing data that just 63% were able to do so in PE lessons. Hayes does not believe that opportunit­ies are equal when discussing her family’s experience.

“My nine-year-old niece goes to school and says to me ‘why do I have the girls’ sessions only once a week and the boys have three?’.” she said.

“I don’t know. Why is that? I bet you that’s probably the case across the board.

“Then you start to look at that from an access perspectiv­e and a facility perspectiv­e.

“I wonder in the community how often those pitches are available for girls in much the same way they are for the boys.

“I don’t know what to tell my niece when she cries, when she says ‘why don’t I get to play it more like (the boys)?’.”

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