Hayes warns what may happen if players 'don't behave properly'

·5 min read
Emma Hayes warned the WSL about their responsibility following postponements across the league

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes fervently pleaded for everyone in women’s football to behave to ensure the season can conclude.

The Blues’ away fixture against Reading was the only surviving match of the weekend in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.

Fran Kirby scored four goals, including a perfect first-half hat-trick, against her former side while Ji So-yun netted the fifth and final goal which sent Chelsea up to second in the table.

However, with the other five matches postponed either due to COVID or because of a team being unable to fulfil the fixture, Hayes was quick to remind clubs and players of their responsibility and the privilege they have.

WSL stars from clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal travelled abroad over the festive break to Dubai despite being under tier 3 and 4 restrictions at the time.

“We in the women’s game, the clubs, the players and everybody involved, have a huge responsibility and our responsibility is to adhere not just to government guidelines but club guidelines,” Hayes said.

“This is an unprecedented time where people are dying and the privilege that’s been bestowed upon us to go to work every day, is one that we are in jeopardy of losing if we don’t behave properly and I think that we now have a responsibility.

“The FA now, I think, have to mandate that we test for academy players to be added to our bubbles, preferably five or six, so that we ensure fixtures are taking place every week.

“We are a group that’s experienced it, sometimes it’s impossible to get a fixture on if COVID runs through the camp.

“However, I think every club big or small has a responsibility to add younger players to its groups so we ensure that the league and finishing the fixtures come above everything else. That’s our responsibility, that’s our duty.

“I think it’s been a dark week for women’s football and I urge the FA to support us, to make sure that we can fulfil our squad quotas for games.

“For clubs and players and for everybody across the sport, we worked so hard to get the women’s game where we are – remember that – and make sure we’re focused on providing some small entertainment for millions of people that are unable to leave their house, some that are suffering and can’t leave their families. Make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves.”

Chelsea had their own COVID troubles in December when their game with Tottenham Hotspur was postponed due to a number of positive tests.

But Hayes wants as many fixtures as possible to be fulfilled and believes teams should be doing their utmost to make sure that’s the case.

“I can safely say at the moment everybody is okay,” Hayes explained. “There’s a couple of players we’ve had to manage certain things in the week to help build them back to a level but so far, so good.

“While they’re all relatively young people, we’re all conscious it can have lasting effects for some. That’s why I normally say to people, at the same time we’re having to risk ourselves to go to work every day; however, we’re lucky.

“It’s our job to do this safely, to look after the players and where we can let’s make sure these fixtures happen and we’re not irresponsible as clubs.

“That’s the big thing for me coming out of this week, it’s not good enough and we have to do better and the FA have to support that, but equally we have to make sure we don’t just throw the FA under the bus.

“They have a duty of care to players and they can only do what is presented to them. I’m disappointed with women’s football this week.

“We’ve worked so hard to get where we are and I think it’s important for everybody to be mindful of that and to make sure we get back to doing the right things at the right times.”

One game called off which differed to the rest was between Spurs and Birmingham City with the Blues unable to fulfil the fixture due to a shortage of players available.

Birmingham made an application for a postponement which was denied by the FA and the outcome of the fixture will be decided by an independent tribunal.

But the Chelsea boss believes clubs should live up to their elite sport status when it comes to their squads.

Hayes added: “For teams that need to make sure they have more players on their squads, do your job. This is a professional league, this is an elite status, if you don’t want the government to take that away from us, then behave properly.

“Every single one of us, us included, I could have had a situation with players potentially leaving the country and doing other things.

“I was adamant that my duty of care is to the club, to the families, to the league. I’ve worked in women’s football a long time and my message to the clubs and the FA is let’s not go through another week like we’ve just been through.”