'It's a moment where it's just amplified': Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes on domestic abuse in lockdown

Katie Whyatt
Emma Hayes, Manager of Chelsea speaks to media during a Chelsea FC Women's Press Conference at Chelsea Training Ground on February 26, 2020 in Cobham, England - Chelsea FC

“I had a meltdown yesterday - I won’t lie” begins the Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes on TalkSport. This is life in isolation for a head coach who is now spending every waking moment of this limbo with an infant, the days blending ceaselessly into one. She went for several walks up and down the hallway, headphones on, to catch her breath. 

“He’s learning so much with me being home, but he’s non-stop chatting, non-stop running up and down,” Hayes explains. “I’d run out of energy for motorbikes, helicopters, aeroplanes, Woody and Buzz - you name it. I think I had a bit of a meltdown. But today I woke up even more grateful, especially considering that there are so many people, especially in the NHS, who are doing so much to keep everybody out of the worst of this. I shouldn’t really moan, to be honest.” 

Hayes knows better than most that she is among the lucky ones. At the behest of Roman Abramovich, Chelsea - for six weeks - will match all donations to UK charity Refuge to raise funds to support women and children experiencing domestic abuse during the coronavirus pandemic. The statistics are terrifying enough anyway: last year, 1.6 million women in the UK suffered from domestic abuse. One in three women between the ages of 16 and 59 will suffer domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women every week in the UK are killed by a current or former partner. It is distressing in the extreme that every domestic abuse charity has predicted that these figures will soar amid the lockdown

“There’s a lot of argument that this self-isolation is just going to aggravate things and keep women stuck in the home feeling like they’ve got no support, no way of getting out,” Hayes, who is on the board of the Chelsea Foundation, told TalkSport. “This is, I think, such an important charity to be involved with, to raise awareness that there is someone there for you. 

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“It’s a moment where it’s just amplified. There’s [been] an increase of 25 per cent in calls to the Refuge helpline since the lockdown. They only see an increase in that suffering. These are people that don’t feel that they can get away from abuse in the home. They’re frightened, and children are the silent victims in all of this that don’t know a way out. I think it’s absolutely crucial that everybody gets behind this to make sure that we provide support where necessary.” 

Hayes then told the club website of how, as a child, a relative and her children came to stay at her family home to escape an abusive partner. 

“I remember that so well growing up,” Hayes said, “and how scary that was for everyone involved. She was very scared she was going to be followed to our home, and we were all frightened that we would be reprimanded for it.

“I have horrible memories of that as a child. I was nine. She came with her children to stay with us for a while, almost in hiding. I remember feeling every day going out to play: ‘I hope he doesn’t come and get her. Is he going to get us?" That was scary.” 

“We will see a lot of news during the coronavirus relating to domestic abuse crimes because women and their children will seek ways out. It is important that we remind those women there is a safe way out, a place to go and a support network - but we have to raise that awareness. Otherwise, they suffer in silence.” 

At club level, Hayes oversees a weekly video call with players, all of whom are working on individual training programmes while some use the time to recover fully from the physical toll of international football. This, Hayes says, is how women’s football used to be: training on your own. 

“You’re having to go back to football, before it became professional,” she said to TalkSport. “There’s a lot of individual training. They’ve got to have the discipline to do that, and the motivation when you don’t have much resource. You haven’t got team-mates beside you and you can’t actually do a lot outside. 

“I know some female players have been talking about [how] they’re getting stopped at the park by doing what police think looks like personal training sessions - when, in fact, they’re just training for their job.” 

Refuge also runs the Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, 0808 2000 247, which receives over 270 calls and contacts every day. 

nationaldahelpline.org.uk provides additional support information and an online form where women can request a safe time to be called back.