Chelsea's coach Emma Hayes directs her team during the UEFA...

Chelsea's coach Emma Hayes directs her team during the UEFA Women's Champions League final soccer match between Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona in Gothenburg, Sweden, on May 16, 2021. New U.S. women's coach Emma Hayes will make her debut with the national team in a pair of exhibition matches against South Korea in June. The United States on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, announced a June 1 match at Dick's Sporting Good Park in Commerce City, Colorado, and a June 4 match at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. Credit: AP/Martin Meissner

LONDON — Emma Hayes, the incoming coach of the U.S. women's national team, said player-to-player relationships on teams are “inappropriate” because they present extra challenges to manage, although she acknowledged that “we’re dealing with human beings.”

Hayes is finishing out the season as manager of Chelsea in the Women’s Super League and is expected to make her debut leading the U.S. national team in a pair of friendly matches against South Korea in June.

Hayes spoke at a press conference Thursday ahead of a WSL match against Arsenal. She was asked about player safeguards in the context of reports in the British media that Leicester women's manager coach Willie Kirk is being investigated by the club following an allegation of a player-coach relationship.

“We have to have safeguarding, make sure that’s it’s accessible for each and every club to protect players,” she said.

“Player-coach relationships they’re inappropriate, player-to-player relationships are inappropriate,” Hayes said. ”But we have to look at it in the context of where the game has come from, and say ‘look we’re in a professional era now’ where the expectations in place for players and coaches is such that all of our focus and attention has got to be on having the top standards.”

Player-to-player relationships can be hard to navigate for a coach, she said.

“One player’s in the team, one’s not in the team,” she said in listing some of the situations that can arise. "One might be in the last year of their contract, one might not be.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes looks on prior to the Women's...

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes looks on prior to the Women's League Cup semi-final soccer match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Joie Stadium, in Manchester, England, Thursday March 7, 2024. Credit: AP/Bradley Collyer

“We all know, those of us that have been in the women’s game for a long period of time, those things have been happening in dressing rooms. Longer term, it would be ideal ... where you don’t have to deal with that."

She added: “We’re dealing with human beings. We do talk about it internally.”

Hayes said it's important to consider the historical contexts.

“Women's football as we know has been a very amateur game for a long period of time, so — and I say this around player-to-player relationships as well — there's challenges that we're moving to a point where we should be moving past those places,” she said.

Pernille Harder and Magdalena Eriksson have been in a relationship for the past decade and played together at Chelsea for three seasons. They switched to Bayern Munich last summer.

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