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In Ultimate Flex, Chelsea Women Coach Emma Hayes Tells Wimbledon They Can’t Afford Her

LONDON — Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes has dismissed speculation that she might move to men's professional side AFC Wimbledon, saying it would be no step up and they could not afford her wages anyway.

Wimbledon are 21st of 24 in League One, the third tier of English soccer, while Chelsea are at the peak of the women's game — Super League champions whose players have won the highest honors.

No woman has managed a men's professional side in English soccer, but media reports had suggested Hayes was on the short list to take over at the relegation-threatened Dons.

Hayes, 44, said it was an insult to suggest that would be a promotion and the conversation should be about quality and achievement rather than gender.

"I’m not looking for another job, I’m blessed with working with wonderful humans day-in, day-out," she told reporters on Tuesday.

"I just don’t know why anybody would ever think that women’s football is a step down — if coaching World Cup champions, winners, players who have represented their country in the Olympics or European championship is a step down from anything."

Asked whether Wimbledon could afford her, she replied: "Absolutely not."

Hayes said the football world needed to wake up and recognize that the qualities involved in management were the same for a male or female team.

"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, and women, in dressing rooms," she said.

"There’s so many quality candidates that can do a job across the men’s game but we spend too much time talking about gender and ethnicity instead of the quality of candidates."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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