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What next for Chelsea Women?

What next for Chelsea Women?


What will the sanctions against Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s owner, mean for Emma Hayes and the women’s team?

When the British government imposed sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, it wasn’t just the men’s team that faced an uncertain future.

The women’s team was a founding member of the Women’s Super League in 2011. In 2012 Emma Hayes became the boss. 

And under her management, Chelsea Women have enjoyed plenty of success. They’ve won the Women’s FA Cup three times, the League Cup twice, and last season won their fourth league title. 

“There’s the final whistle to confirm what we’ve known really since just before half time when Fran Kirby made it 2-0. Chelsea are champions. The best in the league for the second season running, the Blues untouchable at the moment.”

Chelsea FC

They also reached the Champions League final last season, losing 4-0 to Barcelona. 

But now – just like the men’s team – they are unable to buy or sell any players. No more tickets will be sold for their matches. And they face the same £20,000 limit for each away game they travel to. 

Unlike the men, they won’t have the added complication of foreign travel. Chelsea women were knocked out of the Champions League in December.

Nonetheless, their future is just as uncertain.

Chelsea women played an away game against West Ham last Thursday, on the same day that the government hit Roman Abramovich with sanctions.  

That meant Emma Hayes had to answer some difficult questions.

“Yeah, I mean there’s no denying that it’s a difficult day, but I think it’s important that we give it time. The club’s put a statement out, I understand the club are working with the government to dissect the interpretation of that. So I think for all the questions everybody has…players, fans, staff, we have to give the club time to work through that.” 

Sky Sports WSL

Since she arrived as Chelsea manager ten years ago, Emma Hayes has worked tirelessly to make her team a success.

The Chelsea women’s chairman – Adrian Jacob – said that when he first arrived at the club in 2013, the team played in front of “100 people and a dog,”and that Emma Hayes and her team were working 90-hour weeks just to keep things running.

The club was still part-time until 2014. 

Emma Hayes has led Chelsea from these humble origins to multiple titles and a Champions League final. 

“How does it feel as well with people calling you mentality monsters and…”

“Like it, I use it with the team because I think you know, people don’t necessarily do what we do, don’t really realise how hard it is to win football matches. So you know, it’s very easy to say that they need more of this and they need a bit more of that. To be able to get up to perform and replicate performance with consistency all the time is the hardest thing to do.”  

Chelsea FC

Emma Hayes has been the only female coach for long spells during her time in the Women’s Super League.

Yet for as hard as she has worked, and as much as the success of Chelsea’s women is down to her talent and detailed knowledge of the game, the team has been bankrolled by Roman Abramovich.

Adrian Jacob admitted that everything they asked for from the club, “they got.” He described their training facilities at Cobham as “world leading”

They started off playing their matches at Staines Town’s Wheatsheaf Park, but by 2017, Chelsea women had bought the Kingsmeadow stadium – with a capacity of almost 5,000 – from AFC Wimbledon.

Their set up has gone from distinctly amateur, to highly professional.

“What excites you most about the prospect of playing here?”

“To just play for such a big club, play with so many amazing players, and also be playing in the league…the English league is so exciting at the moment and yeah, I’m really looking forward to that.”

Chelsea TV

That was Pernille Harder, speaking after she’d just signed for Chelsea from Wolfsburg in 2020. The fee was said to be in the region of £300,000, a world record in the women’s game. 

It may not sound like much compared to the millions splashed on the men’s game, but  all of that money has come from Roman Abramovich’s purse.

So they are subject to the same restrictions as the men’s team.

The added complication for Emma Hayes is that no-one yet knows who Chelsea’s new owner will be. 

She  knows that Chelsea Women are a valuable asset to the club and she doesn’t expect that to change.

The big question is whether a future buyer will share her priorities.

Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford and produced by Imy Harper.