Written by By Benoit Lecomte, CNN
After pushing for changes to the English game that would more evenly distribute the wealth of England’s top four clubs, the United States Women’s Soccer (USWNT) coach Emma Hayes is “fed up” with the inequality she sees on the pitch.
“There are black, female coaches,” Hayes said in an interview with The Sun , a British tabloid newspaper. “They all go through the same doors (and) same systems, but they are unable to reach the same levels.
“Equity in football — that has been the biggest issue in the last four to five years.”
Hayes was appointed as the new women’s head coach of West Ham United in May this year, four years after she led the national team to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.
She is expected to face criticism for her comments, but Hayes was quick to defend her claims during an interview with local U.K. network MUTV.
“I really want to give everyone the chance to work in football and I feel like I am doing my job as a coach if I am looking at the money all the time, if I’m looking at how teams are structured, if I’m looking at the infrastructure, if I’m looking at, ‘Which teams are doing well?’”
“I just don’t believe that. For me, there is such a value in achievement, there is such a value in results, and to me that’s a bigger reward than maybe money.”
Hayes, who will be joined by former United States’ National Women’s Soccer League coach Paul Riley in the Hammers’ dugout, says she wants to provide an equal playing field for all coaches in Britain.
The USWNT coach says the problems she encountered over the last five years while developing the national team have been compounded by them being effectively “second class citizens.”
She says she was denied the opportunity to build a team with all the benefits enjoyed by the male side of the team, such as squad holidays.
“The girls on the men’s team get free holidays, they have free accommodation, they have free haircuts, they get football matches whenever they want. It’s beyond the eligibility,” Hayes told MUTV.
“So that’s why I was really disappointed this year as I wasn’t there to coach the team. I would have had more time with the girls — I wouldn’t have had the kids, I wouldn’t have had them at home for me to change for games, I wouldn’t have had breakfast with them, I wouldn’t have had supper with them — it just wouldn’t have worked out that way.”
An influential figure in England’s top flight, Hayes says the issues of inequality have led her to become angry in the past.
“It got to the point last year where I didn’t see any difference in the boys’ game, nor the women’s game. I was more and more angry, as I started questioning myself. There were nine, 10, 12 (National Women’s Soccer League) games a year for the men, not for the women.”
“And that’s when I started a journey that was just not happy.”
Hayes, who is known for bringing high expectations to her teams, says she has been harshly treated for her achievements.
She says she was forced to move the team’s training base from Massachusetts, in the US, to the United Kingdom to ensure the support of the West Ham board.
“First of all, I was always really, really, really careful with who I took with me, who I could afford to take with me. I had to create this amazing platform here at West Ham. And then it ended up being an expensive exercise to do that.”
The Hammers’ St. James’ Park stadium, where the team plays, is also owned by American billionaire David Sullivan, who Hayes says is “proud” of the new coach.
She says she is planning to bring in American players during the January transfer window.