Sarina Wiegman: Player-coach relationships are inappropriate – we must do more to protect players

Sarina Wiegman has condemned the relationship between player and coach as “highly inappropriate”, for the first time since the issue made widespread headlines earlier this month.

Telegraph Sports has learned of at least 36 cases of alleged player-coach relationships in the top six divisions of the England women’s pyramid since the fallout from the sacking of Jonathan Morgan by Sheffield United in February after Morgan admitted having a relationship with a player at the time he previously managed Leicester City.

In March, Leicester suspended current manager Willie Kirk over allegations he was in a relationship with a player. Kirk has not spoken about that accusation, but he has been contacted for comment. Since that news emerged, managers in the Women’s Super League have expressed concerns about the potential power imbalance of a player-coach romance.

Speaking at St George’s Park after naming her latest England squad for April’s 2025 Women’s Euro 2025 qualifiers against Sweden and the Republic of Ireland, Wiegman said: “I think the relationship between player and coach is very inappropriate, I think we not having to accept that, that’s not healthy. .

“In our environment it is a professional environment, it is all about performance and it must always be safe. Things can happen, but it is inappropriate and we all need to be very aware of that.”

Wiegman stopped short of personally calling for a complete ban on the relationship between player and coach when asked if she thought the Football Association should formally ban it, but she did say: “I think it’s common sense, it’s really inappropriate, and I think if we all took responsibility, things wouldn’t happen. But if it happens too often, you need regulation. I’ll leave that behind [a blanket ban] to others. We always talk about safe environments. This is one of the things that really needs to be safe. Everyone is really aware of the responsibility we have.”

Wiegman ‘surprised’ about Arsenal’s visit to Melbourne

Other aspects of player welfare dominated the discussion on Tuesday as Wiegman was also asked for her reaction to Arsenal’s decision to play a friendly in Melbourne on May 24, a week before England host France at St James’ Park. Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall defended that match during his speech last Friday, explaining that many of his players may be left behind depending on player loads and other factors.

“I was surprised about that trip,” Wiegman said. “For all players, with an already complicated calendar, it is not good to go to the other side of the world. But I would say that this doesn’t just apply to the English players, it applies to every European player participating in the qualifiers. That is something that is difficult for them to accept and then perform at the highest level.

“We already had conversations with Arsenal about the summer and they were very good conversations, we are on the same page. Of course I am in constant contact with Jonas. Jonas and I talk about players and also about these concerns. They have not yet announced who will be there. goes and who doesn’t, I think in general, anyone who plays competitive games, whoever would go all the way to the other side of the world, I think that’s hard for players to bear in that period, and then to the qualifiers to go.

Wiegman is also in discussions with clubs about her proposed summer training schedule, as all European women’s national teams face the unusual situation of European Championship qualifiers taking place in mid-July, five weeks after playing in early June, skewing the chances of players are hindered. of an off-season break.

‘Clubs are not angry with us – we are not angry with clubs’

Wiegman is planning a three-week training camp ahead of the July matches to ensure her players are not at risk of injury when they face Sweden and Ireland in July. It is reported that clubs were “angry” about Wiegman’s planned schedule, but in response the Dutch said: “I was surprised about that. They are not angry. There is no anger at all in the conversations we have. They’re just really good conversations, so honestly I don’t know where that comes from. But the clubs are not angry with us and we are not angry with the clubs.

“There are five weeks [in between our matches this summer] and what we want to do is give some rest, and we are still in contact with the clubs, so we are in the final phase [of talks] with the clubs, so I can’t really say anything specific.”

This summer’s global women’s calendar has been widely condemned, particularly in relation to the July competitive window. In January, Arsenal and England centre-back Leah Williamson described the situation as “untenable” while raising serious concerns about the injury risk to players.

Williamson is back in the England squad for the upcoming qualifiers, which start a week at Wembley against Sweden on Friday. Nearly 50,000 tickets for that game are said to have been sold since it went on sale last week.

Williamson was initially selected for February’s friendlies against Austria and Italy, but was forced to miss those matches due to injury. The only change to Wiegman’s original squad for February, compared to her April squad, which was announced on Tuesday, is Millie Turner replacing fellow Manchester United centre-back Maya Le Tissier. As expected, Chelsea centre-back Millie Bright remains sidelined with a knee problem.

England squad for Euro 2025 qualifiers

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Chelsea), Khiara Keating (Manchester City).
Defenders: Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Millie Turner (Manchester United), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Lotte Wubben-Moy ( Arsenal).
Midfielders: Grace Clinton (Tottenham, on loan from Manchester United), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jess Park (Manchester City), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona).
Forward: Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Arsenal).

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