Emma Hayes wants more equality in football in the wake of the arrest of the Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa for alleged tax evasion.
Bielsa has been arrested by police over alleged irregularities in the company owners’ certificates for a travel agency that serves his wife. His team will be stripped of their 5-0 win against Doncaster Rovers Rovers Belles in the FA Cup third round on Sunday unless the case against him is dropped.
In an open letter to the Football Association, Hayes wrote: “I think it is time for the FA and more specifically the women’s game in this country to reflect the fact that it is a world of disparity for women in sport today. From the women’s game, I think there are many areas where we can remove institutional barriers that allow us to be just as successful as men.”
Bielsa appointed a female coach, Melanie Berry, as the head of a nutrition programme for the Leeds first team at a time when the club was facing calls to employ a female manager. Hayes, who is the manager of Hayes, England & Wales Ladies, said in her letter: “Tackling differences that exist between genders within sport cannot just be an onus on us girls. It needs to be something that takes place in our industry, in our clubs and in our governing bodies.”
The FA has already changed the rules regarding female coaches with the new position of women’s performance manager, while the BBC has commissioned an investigation into the process used to appoint and select football women to sit on committees.
Hayes added: “This sexism is never going to go away unless we stand up and say ‘no’. It is an insidious inequality. With a turn of a phrase it means it can be done anything it wants, whenever it wants. It means that there are few barriers to someone passing these toxic stereotypes and that must change now.”
Hayes’s letter was signed by seven other prominent female footballers, including Rachel Yankey, Steph Houghton, Steph Houghton, Katie Chapman, Casey Stoney, Shelley Kerr and Louise Nichols.
Yankey, the captain of Manchester City and England, said: “I hope my body of work, each of my managers and all of the female coaches I’ve been fortunate enough to work with, will eventually influence the sport’s structures. I think it’s vital for us as players to set the bar as high as possible and in doing so, hold everyone in the game to account. It’s vital for female footballers to be given the chance to flourish, particularly in a sport that I love.”