Leicester sack Willie Kirk after investigation into alleged relationship with player

Leicester sack Willie Kirk after investigation into alleged relationship with player

Leicester have sacked their women’s team manager, Willie Kirk, after an investigation into an alleged relationship with a player.

The WSL club said he “was determined to have breached the team’s code of conduct to a degree that makes his position untenable”.

The Guardian revealed on 8 March that Kirk had been suspended while the club carried out an investigation into an alleged relationship with one of his squad members.

The manager was then absent from the team’s 2-0 defeat of Liverpool, which earned them a place in the FA Cup semi-finals, where they will play Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 14 April, with Jennifer Foster in charge, supported by first-team coach Stephen Kirby.

They have since lost the two league games they have played, a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham and 3-2 loss against Brighton.

The 45-year-old Kirk joined Leicester as director of football in July 2022 and became manager after the departure of Lydia Bedford four months later. When Kirk took charge of Leicester, they had played six games without collecting a point but he guided them to safety, finishing the season on 16 points, above Brighton and relegated Reading.

Kirk began his coaching career as an under-14s coach at the Scottish side Livingston and coached the club’s under-17s before joining Hibernian in 2009 as under-17s manager. He became manager of Hibs’ women’s team in 2010 before spells at Preston, Bristol City, Manchester United (as an assistant to Casey Stoney) and Everton.

Relationships between managers and players in women’s football have been in the spotlight since Kirk’s suspension. It is the second time a manager has been investigated and sacked this year, with Sheffield United relieving Jonathan Morgan of his duties for an alleged relationship with a player during his time at Leicester, before the club was professional and affiliated with the men’s side.

Leicester confirmed the dismissal in a statement on Tuesday night, which stated Kirk was sacked “following an extensive internal disciplinary process and respecting the club’s obligations to individual privacy.” Kirk had: “breached the team’s code of conduct to a degree that makes his position untenable. Established and implemented ahead of the start of the current season, the code forms part of the club’s ongoing commitment to professionalising the women’s game since the takeover of LCFC Women in 2020, promoting a performance-led culture among players, coaches and technical staff.”

Several WSL managers spoke out on the issue in the wake of after Kirk’s suspension. The Aston Villa manager, Carla Ward, described said relationships between players and managers aswere “unacceptable” and Arsenal’s Jonas Eidevall called them “very inappropriate”. Ward and the Bristol City manager, Lauren Smith, said that it should be a “sackable offence”.

The England manager, Sarina Wiegman, echoed these sentiments of her WSL counterparts when she discussed the subject for the first time at the Lionesses squad announcement on Tuesday.

“I think player-coach relationships are very inappropriate,” ­she said. “We should not accept that and it’s not healthy. Our environment is a professional one, it’s all about ­performing and it should always be safe. Things can happen but it’s ­inappropriate and we all should be very aware of that.

Asked whether the Football Association or NewCo, which will take over the running of England’s top two divisions from next season, should ban such relationships, she said: “I think it is common sense … but when it happens too often you need regulations. I’ll leave that up to others.”

Source: theguardian.com