Carla Ward: Player-coach relationships should ‘100 percent’ be a sackable offence

Carla Ward, Manager of Aston Villa looks on prior to a match
Carla Ward, Manager of Aston Villa looks on prior to the Barclays Women's Super League match vs Manchester City on December 09, 2023 (Photo by Matt McNulty/Getty Images)

Aston Villa manager Carla Ward has stated that player-coach relationships are ‘unacceptable’ in football and should ‘100 percent’ be a sackable offence.

The Villans boss spoke openly and firmly about the topic following the suspension of Leicester City manager Willie Kirk. The Edinburgh-born coach is currently being investigated by the club over an alleged relationship with a player.

Sheffield United also sacked former manager Jonathan Morgan last month for an alleged player-coach relationship during his time at Leicester, prior to the club’s merger with the men’s side.

Ward has said she doesn’t understand ‘anyone who crosses that line’ and believes the ‘only way to clean the game up’ is to ‘highlight’ these situations and ‘get rid of them.’

“I feel even stronger than I did two years ago. The game is going at a rapid rate and it can’t happen,” Ward said during her latest press conference. “Our job and our duty is to protect players first and foremost. So, to cross that line is unacceptable and it can’t happen.

“It makes me very angry because we’re here to set an environment, a comfortable place that people come to work, that they feel safe, that they feel backed, that they feel looked after. So, I just don’t understand anyone that crosses that line.”

Ward then stated she believes a player-coach relationship should ‘100 percent’ be a sackable offence.

Embed from Getty Images

‘It’s an unwritten rule’

As it stands, there is a lack of formal and safe reporting mechanisms for players or staff to report information anonymously and safely to FA and clubs without risk of exposure. Ward expressed this as the ‘biggest problem.’

“I feel really strongly about it because essentially, if you’re the manager and you’re crossing that line, it’s very difficult for anyone to report it. I mean, yes, you can at some clubs, of course. But it does become difficult, and that’s why I go back to it’s a complete abuse of power.

“We’re in a moment right now where there’s a microscope on the women’s game. I think people have taken advantage of certain positions. I don’t like that, I don’t think it’s right.

“It becomes very difficult for someone to report a head coach or a manager or a general manager or director of football because let’s be honest, it’s not just managers and head coaches is it?”

Embed from Getty Images

With this breach of power becoming more prevalent across the women’s game, could it be the case that a clause is needed in club contracts? Perhaps this action is needed to enforce a stricter code of conduct and condemn any breaching behaviour. For Ward, it seems like it shouldn’t have to be the case. But to make the situation ‘black and white,’ it could be looked at.

“It’s an unwritten rule. I’m sure teachers don’t have it in their contract. It’s an unwritten rule. There’s a lot of unwritten rules in life that people don’t cross. Given where we’re at now and maybe given that some people still don’t understand that unwritten rule, maybe yeah, maybe put it in black and white, so then it’s clear.”

MORE from Her Football Hub: