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Emma Hayes: Chelsea manager's 'elite' Euro 2020 commentary proving women do belong

09:00 BST 25/06/2021
Emma Hayes 2021
The 44-year-old has won praise from ex-England striker Ian Wright and viewers alike for her role as a pundit for ITV during the tournament this summer

Many in the UK might not have heard of Emma Hayes until they turned on their televisions to watch Euro 2020.

Hayes won the Women’s Super League and Continental Cup this season in charge of Chelsea, as well as guiding her team to the Women’s Champions League final for the first time.

But for those who have not followed her achievements, their introduction to one of the best managers in the women’s game has come through a series of appearances as a pundit and co-commentator that ex-England striker Ian Wright has described as “elite”. 

Many who have watched ITV's coverage of the tournament in the UK are tending to agree.

In a space where social media trolls will regularly declare that women do not belong in commentary boxes, such praise is not patronising, nor does it come from a place of just being impressed that a woman can come into a male-dominated sphere and show that they actually know a thing or two about the sport. Hayes’ contributions stand out because they are different.

A quick look at the line-up for ITV’s Euro coverage highlights that the Chelsea manager is the only person on the roster who is currently in charge of a team. That in itself is rare.

Her approach to the role of analysing the games is, as a result, very different to the rest.

The way Hayes looks at games in the studio is a glimpse into how she does her day job. Her mind is still in the flow of picking apart the games in that manner, with a long, demanding season at Chelsea having only just ended.

She is more inclined to pick up those tactical nuances, those finer aspects that are defining each game. It is something that she does in the dugout every week, as was seen in a viral clip of her directing her Chelsea players through the press in their Champions League quarter-final win over Wolfsburg.

Her ability to pick up on these details was key to the Blues’ progression to the final in Europe. The second legs of their quarter-final and semi-final ties were especially important in almost going all the way, as Hayes and her staff analysed the first legs brilliantly and made changes accordingly to swing each tie in their favour.

She knows what is going through a manager’s mind when they are stood on the touchline better than most, too. She knows the challenges they are facing when they are trying to break down a defensive unit or catch a team on the counter, bringing that experience and knowledge to her coverage.

That is not to say you have to be an acting manager or head coach to be a good pundit – but Hayes’ job outside of the studio certainly means she brings something different to the table.

She also offers genuine personality and is engaging as she talks about the fine details. That will certainly be of no surprise to those who have come across her before, as Hayes is one of the best personalities around.

There are many reasons why she has established herself as a genuine favourite among fans - be it with her analogies, talking at length about geese ahead of the WSL’s final day; her raw emotion and heart on her sleeve approach to the media, which has forced broadcasters to issue the odd apology for bad language; or her passion for so many causes, from reaching inner-city kids with football and establishing equality in sport.

"When the football world is ready to adhere to the diversity codes, so that BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities, plus women, get the opportunities in football, then I’ll see that as a step forward," she said in February, responding to a report that linked her with a job at men's third-tier club AFC Wimbledon.

"This is not a conversation about Emma Hayes and AFC Wimbledon, but we should be having larger conversations around creating opportunities across the diverse spectrum, so that opportunities in the men’s game are not limited to those in privileged positions.”

What Hayes is doing as a pundit and co-commentator this summer is an example of how extending the opportunities in and around football to those minorities can be so beneficial.

Her insight and know-how may be no surprise to those who follow women’s football, but for those who do not, it helps to debunk the myth that women do not belong.