Chelsea Women boss Emma Hayes has stressed she is not looking for another job after being linked with AFC Wimbledon, who she says could not afford her.
Hayes has also said “women’s football is not a step down from anything” and that any suggestion it is is an “insult”.
It was reported earlier this week by the Express that League One strugglers Wimbledon were considering an approach for Hayes with regard to their managerial vacancy.
The 44-year-old has been in charge at current Women’s Super League champions and leaders Chelsea since 2012 and the trophies she has guided them to includes three WSL titles and two FA Cups.
When asked about the Wimbledon link at a press conference to preview Wednesday’s League Cup semi-final against West Ham, Hayes said: “I’m the manager of Chelsea, I manage and represent elite, world-class players, and this, for me, is an amazing job that I have spent nine years cultivating all my energy into.
“I’m not looking for another job, I’m blessed with working with wonderful humans day in, day out.”
Hayes was subsequently asked if Wimbledon could afford her, and she said: “Absolutely not.”
It was put to Hayes that there had been talk of a step up to the men’s game, and she said: “Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder, Beth England, Magda Eriksson, Millie Bright, Maren Mjelde – do you want me to keep going? These are world-class players, and women’s football is not a step down from anything.
“Women’s football is something to celebrate, and the quality and the achievement of all the females I represent…it’s an insult to them that we talk about women’s football being a step down, with the dedication and the commitment and the quality they have.
“I think that’s what I’m disappointed with, not being linked to a football job, as a football coach, regardless of gender.
“But I’m happy at Chelsea, I love my job here, I’ve always been clear about that and nothing has changed.”
Hayes also said she thinks “the football world needs to wake up and recognise that, while the game is played by a different gender, it is exactly the same sport, and the qualities involved with having to manage that is exactly the same than it would be for a men’s team. We are talking about human beings.”
She also spoke more broadly about diversity, saying: “When the football world is ready to adhere to the diversity codes, so that BAME communities, plus women, get the opportunities in football, then I’ll see that as a step forward.
“This is not a conversation about Emma Hayes and AFC Wimbledon. We should be having larger conversations about creating opportunities across the diverse spectrum, so that opportunities in the men’s game are not limited to those in the privileged positions.
“The football world needs to live by its promises and live by the diversity codes and be in a position where they are promoting opportunities for the less privileged. That for me is what I would like to see.
“This is about the football world being in a position where it’s a normal conversation to talk about having coaches from Asian backgrounds, from black backgrounds, women in dressing rooms, not as an exception to the rule but as something that’s normal.
“That process needs to begin and hopefully that affirmative action is something that can be enforced, because there’s so many quality candidates that can do the job across the men’s game, that I think we spend too much time talking about gender and ethnicity instead of quality of candidates.”
Chelsea captain Eriksson said, when asked about Hayes being linked with Wimbledon, and women managing professional men’s teams in general: “I understand people want to grab her, she has been doing great for us.
“We haven’t seen it yet. I think it’s positive there are rumours at least – the question is out there, it’s getting talked about.
“Of course, I hope Emma stays. But I think we do need more diversity in the leadership roles on the men’s side. How close we are to a woman getting the job? It’s really difficult to say, I think.”