Chelsea boss Emma Hayes has spoken about women’s football being “finally in the consciousness” as she prepares to lead her team out in a Champions League final.
The Blues make their first appearance in the competition’s finale, and only the second by an English club, 14 years on from the first, when they face Barcelona in Gothenburg on Sunday.
Hayes’ side will bid to claim trophy three of a possible quadruple, a week after sealing the Women’s Super League title with a 5-0 victory over Reading.
Asked about the impact she hoped Chelsea’s performance will have in terms of inspiring youngsters, Hayes said: “I left the training ground the other day, one car drove in with a little girl in, she was somewhere between 10 and 12, and there was just this huge wave towards me.
“And I thought ‘I’ve been driving out this gate nine years and I didn’t get that wave before’. I then got to the next junction, another car came in, and exactly the same thing happened. And then I got to almost the exit of Cobham, and I got a third one.
“I remember thinking ‘oh my goodness, these are our kids, these little girls are watching that game – yes!’ That is what I want. They’re watching that game, because you know what – they have role models. They have women to look up to.
“We’re so behind on that stuff in this country. That’s taken time. We talk about the growth of the women’s game – the growth of role models…
“They sprinted home, I know they did, to watch that game, from wherever they were, and why? Because it is on the telly every week, it is in the papers, it’s on the news. Hallelujah! It is finally in the consciousness.
“My mum said ‘it still wasn’t enough coverage’ and I said ‘you’re right mum’, because if it was a men’s team that won there would be double and treble the amount. So we’ve still got some work to do.”
Hayes was involved when Arsenal won the European competition in 2007, as assistant manager. That role was followed by a stint working in America, before taking charge at Chelsea in 2012, and the 44-year-old’s subsequent tenure has included winning four WSL titles and two FA Cups.
Hayes was asked if she had aspirations at all for a life in politics after football, and she said: “I’d never say never. It’s the career I wanted to do, but I became a football manager. But I also recognise there’s a lot of politicking in this business too.”
She was then asked what the first thing would be that she would change if she was Prime Minister, and said: “I would definitely make sure there was equal PE provision for girls in primary and secondary school sports. Not enough, I’m afraid.
“I would make sure there would be…an equal redistribution of wealth so that there’s enough investment in women’s sports, as there are men’s. That’s what I’d do.”