• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Emma Hayes leaving Chelsea: is club football less important than national football for women’s teams?

ByMia Siitonen

Nov 26, 2023
Emma Hayes with the Chelsea Women's teamSONY DSC

In a statement released by the club last week, it was announced that Chelsea women’s manager Emma Hayes will leave the club at the end of the season to pursue an international opportunity in the US. Hayes has since been confirmed to be taking over as the new manager for the US Women’s National Team (USWNT).

In her 11 years in charge, Hayes has been instrumental in Chelsea’s success, leading the team to win the Women’s Super League six times, as well as five Women’s FA Cups, one FA Women’s Spring Series trophy, and one FA Women’s Community shield.

Within the sphere of English club football, Hayes has won almost everything there is to win, except the illustrious Champions League. Accordingly, a change at this point in her career makes sense. The fresh environment offered by both the United States and the move from club to national football provide a new challenge beyond the realm in which she has succeeded for so long.

A challenge indeed, for the US women’s national team, despite its historic success, is at a crossroads. Long-term players such as Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are on their way out, making way for the apparently promising next generation, yet at the Women’s World Cup last summer, the team looked lost, being knocked out on penalties by Sweden in the round of sixteen.

The difficulties of the team go beyond a transitional phase amid a changing roster of players. A flawed youth development system and a sense of complacency despite other countries making strides to catch up with the USA’s dominance are just some of the issues that Hayes would be faced with.

On the other hand, the role is, in many ways, attractive. It is a prestigious position, given the USA’s reputation as a dominant force on the world stage, and would be compensated to reflect this.

A management position within national football also has the potential to offer a work-life balance far superior to that of domestic and European football. The pressure of this is something that Hayes has publicly spoken of, having undergone an emergency hysterectomy at the end of last season as a consequence of endometriosis. Even considering the responsibility of keeping an eye on players while they are at their clubs, the weekly load of managing a national team is lighter in comparison with the incessant schedule of training and twice-weekly matches of domestic football.

While it may be argued by some that Hayes’ move across the pond indicates a lesser importance of domestic than national football within the women’s game, this perspective fails to see the bigger picture.

Instead, it must be considered from the point of view of a manager at the top of her game who has achieved almost all that there is to do within her own country. As well as this, we must consider more generally the stage of development at which the women’s game finds itself. Huge strides have been made by way of funding and support in recent years, but there is still a long road ahead until women’s football is respected in the same way as men’s. The Euros and Women’s World Cup highlighted the significance of national football for its ability to attract new fans and attention.

Hayes’ move therefore tells the story of a manager who has made an immeasurable contribution to the success of domestic women’s football and now has the opportunity to do the same on a national scale. If she succeeds, she will establish her reputation as one of the greatest managers of all time.

Chelsea F.C. Women at the 2015 FA Women’s Cup Final” by Lee Fraser is licensed under CC BY 2.0.