Relationships between players and coaches in women's football 'a concern'

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FA's Campbell: 'Player/coach relationships are not the best of sporting conduct'

Relationships between players and coaches are a "concern" for the women's game, the Football Association's head of women's football has said.

Baroness Campbell, who appointed Phil Neville as England women's boss, said some candidates withdrew because of the potential for increased scrutiny of their private lives.

Neville replaced Mark Sampson, who was sacked by England for "inappropriate behaviour" in a previous role at Bristol Academy.

"It's an issue we have to deal with in women's football," she said.

"There are people who have relationships with players. The issue for us is that isn't the best of sporting conduct.

"I don't think any of us should sit here in moral judgement on individuals. Individuals have to live their lives as they see fit.

"You have to understand the challenges when a coach and a player are in a relationship in the same team. It's challenging for the other players, and maybe they can handle it with massive professionalism and discretion and I'm sure they do in many cases, but it's an issue that is of concern."

Relationships between players and coaches, and between players, are common in women's football, with one former international telling BBC Sport they could barely remember a club they had represented at which a relationship of this kind had not existed.

Former Charlton, Watford and Estonia coach Keith Boanas married former England goalkeeper Pauline Cope-Boanas, whom he coached at Charlton, although he has said: "Ours is a serious relationship and we've always kept our private life away from football."

He also added on social media: "We actually met well before I became coach, I was coaching her nephew.

"And not once did any player of mine ever consider it a favouritism issue, she was far too good for that. Had I not picked her they would have said I was nuts."

But the issue has come under more scrutiny since Sampson was sacked last year and some potential candidates for his replacement dropped out of the running for what the FA described as "personal reasons".

Neville's appointment has since been criticised because the former Manchester United player was not among the initial group of candidates shortlisted for the role.

When asked whether player-coach relationships should be outlawed in elite sport, Campbell said: "There are two issues here. One is an issue of abuse, where someone is using their power - that's totally unacceptable, for all of us in life, let alone in sport.

"There's another where a player and a coach have a relationship and our view is that's not good conduct. Why? Because it's very difficult for the other players if you have someone who's getting selected, who is in the dressing room. Those are difficult challenges."

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I'm not a sexist - England women head coach Neville

Neville didn't ask about contract length

Campbell, the former head of elite funding agency UK Sport, stressed that the decision by some applicants to withdraw from consideration for the England women's role was made by the candidates themselves.

Explaining how a long list of 145 candidates was slimmed down to a six-strong shortlist, Campbell said some pulled out after "agonising" for a few days when they realised "the relentless scrutiny" they would be bringing on themselves and their families.

She also denied the suggestion that the FA's qualms about player-coach relationships meant Neville got the job "by default".

"I spoke to many of those people on the shortlist and the person who excited me most was Phil Neville," she said.

"[It was] because of his excitement and the real belief he had about what he could do to grow the women's game - he wasn't just doing this to be the England manager.

"He didn't ask me about contract length - everyone else wanted to do that."

Campbell did not comment on the disparity between Neville's reported salary of £120,000 and the £3m that England men's manager Gareth Southgate is reported to earn.

But she did say Neville's salary was competitive compared with other nations and hoped wages would rise throughout the women's game as it became more professional, something she said the FA was investing in heavily.