Chelsea’s manager, Emma Hayes, has called for greater education around body image after Fran Kirby’s matter-of-fact admission that she covers up because she “gets called fat all the time”.
Kirby made the statement in a Chelsea documentary on her return to playing after a knee injury. “Fran, how are you wearing a jacket?!” someone off camera asks her. “Because I get called fat all the time, so I have to cover it up,” she says.
Hayes applauded the forward for being so open and said she did “not believe in the women’s game that we should have weigh-ins or you should have body composition tests”.
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She said the media had a part to play in improving things for players in this area. “The media need to be mindful of the insecurities that might be there, and body shaming is a real thing,” she said. “The players feel it and I was proud of Fran for saying that, because as women we’re judged enough to look a certain way.
“But in order to perform you need to eat carbs as well as have a healthy diet and unfortunately there is a problem in the game. I’m not going to just limit it to the women’s game; there is a problem in sport with underfuelling and underloading. That comes with the constant demands to look a certain way and, unfortunately, a vitriolic environment that comes from social media.
“Fran certainly fell victim to that as other players have as well. So, again, I always urge everybody to be mindful of that because we’re destroying people in many ways and I’m really glad that Fran said out loud what so many female players do not say enough.”
Hayes said she “personally ignores” pressures on her to look a certain way. “Sometimes people are not kind, but I guess you have to have a thick skin in my job,” she said. “I always just want to try and educate, so I’ll always say to someone: ‘Please can you not take a photo like that?’ or ‘Please can you consider that the athlete won’t like that?’ or ‘Please can you just make sure you take a headshot? I don’t want you to do a zoom out with that.’
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“I think educating people around it is important because maybe photographers are not always conscious of it, or they might take a shot of something thinking: ‘Well, no one’s ever said that to me because I’ve only captured male footballers before.’ But I do think that they have to think about it and I’m only talking about things that all female players discuss in the background. I feel the same way they do. But I’m a bit older and I’m in menopause, I’ve got my own challenges.”