Neville waltzed into women’s football but only someone of Hayes’ stature could step into the men’s game

Premier League clubs won’t hire a woman yet but Laura Lawrence would love to see what the Chelsea manager and Euros star pundit could do in men’s football.

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Emma Hayes has been epically good during Euro 2020. Her co-commentating and punditry skills have brought orgasmic appreciation from some quarters for discussing such things as expected assist stats with the ease of breathing fresh air.

She’s also rattled the cages of the ‘4 lads in jeans’ contingent who seem to have a problem with her speaking at all.

Overall, though, she has won many admirers for her deep understanding of the game and ability to convey real-time coaching knowledge to a lay audience. In my excitement, I raised the question about who the first men’s team would be to hire her as head coach. It sparked an interesting debate.

Having mooted a progressive club such as Forest Green Rovers it became clear that my own unconscious bias about women’s football had seeped through.

It was raised that at Chelsea she is coaching at the highest level of the game, not playing Scunthorpe on a damp, autumn evening. Why would she leave the facilities, players and legacy she has built at Chelsea for lower league football? Isn’t that demeaning?

She answered that question herself back in February when AFC Wimbledon seemed poised to make her an offer. She called it an “insult” to women footballers that their profession would be considered a step down.

“The football world needs to wake up. While the game is played by a different gender, it’s exactly the same sport.”

This is all very true and a valid argument as to why someone with her experience would want to remain at the top of the sport.

The perception, however, remains that the men’s game is more prestigious because of its audience, reach and ability to generate external revenue. The women’s game isn’t there yet as much as I would like to say it is.

For equality to be a true measure then equality of opportunity has to be available in the men’s game too. It is the same sport but while the likes of Phil Neville can waltz into the women’s game with the ease of Anton Du Beke across a sprung ballroom floor, women have not two-stepped the other way.

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Realistically a Premier League club isn’t going to hire a woman yet. There’s too much money at stake to take the gamble. Harsh but not untrue. The Championship is a dogfight to get to the Premier League. With the pressure on managers to succeed quickly and within Profit and Sustainability rules, again even the most progressive of clubs aren’t going to take the ‘risk’.

Which only leaves lower league teams who may be willing to take the chance. The Forest Green Rovers of this world who think outside the 12-yard box.

I admire Hayes a great deal and I would love to see what she could do in the men’s game. I don’t think that should be taken as an insult. I think she is a wonderful advocate for women in football.

I agree with her that she is worth much more than the lower leagues of the men’s game but it would take a woman of Hayes’ stature to entice a club in the men’s game to hire. Anyone less experienced wouldn’t be considered.

Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR 

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