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‘Lost talent’: Hayes fears city girls are missing out

Chelsea boss says travel demands of top London clubs mean fewer opportunities for some young footballers

04 February, 2021 — By Steve Barnett

Emma Hayes in 2011 during her time with the Camden and Regent’s Park Youth League, with the then Royal Parks sports development officer David Ellis and league co-ordinators Will Cave and Ash Rahman. Photo: Catherine Etoe

EMMA Hayes has shared her fears for the “lost” talent being “neglected” in women’s football.

The Chelsea boss, who grew up kicking a ball around the Curnock Street estate in Camden Town, believes that girls from the inner-city areas are missing out on opportunities within the professional game because of the travel demands of top London clubs.

Hayes’ Chelsea train at Cobham in Surrey, while capital rivals Arsenal train at London Colney in Hertfordshire, and play their home matches at nearby Borehamwood FC. Both are a hefty round trip from where Hayes once helped to run a youth league in Regent’s Park.

“I just remember being a kid from inner-city London and having the opportunity to go and train at the JVC Centre up at Arsenal,” said the former Parliament Hill School pupil as she recalled her trips to Highbury. “Kids from London aren’t coming out to Cobham, and they are not going out to Borehamwood.”

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes. Photo: Catherine Etoe

Remembering some of the talents she worked with as assistant manager to Vic Akers at Arsenal, where she won the quadruple, including the Uefa Cup, Hayes added: “When I think of the talents like Alex Scott and Rachel Yankey, I think to myself ‘we are losing that’.”

Calling for “a different approach to keep football alive for inner-city kids”, Hayes continued: “I was involved with the Regent’s Park League in Camden for a lot of years, and what we learned is girls don’t travel like boys do. Boys will jump on a bus and go to matches. Girls don’t – they will go if parents take them.

“And if you think how challenging that is for working parents, it’s really difficult to get them out to Cobham.

“It’s probably the one thing that has always frustrated me, and I don’t have the solution. But we are neglecting scores of inner-city kids that I think are being lost by the fact that our clubs and hubs are outside the M25.”

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