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Friday, 29 March 2024 08:41

Leicester sack Willie Kirk after investigation into alleged relationship with player.

Staff Reporter.

(BBC Sport) - Leicester City have sacked manager Willie Kirk following an investigation into an allegation he had a relationship with a player.

Kirk, 45, was suspended by the Women's Super League club earlier this month to "assist with an internal process".

The Scottish boss has not been on the touchline for the past three games.

"Willie was determined to have breached the team's code of conduct to a degree that makes his position untenable," Leicester said in a statement.

A complaint was lodged with the club about an alleged current relationship between Kirk and a player.

BBC Sport has approached Kirk for comment regarding the allegation.

The timeline leading to Kirk's sacking

Following Kirk's suspension, assistant manager Jennifer Foster and first-team coach Stephen Kirby took charge for the Women's FA Cup quarter-final at Liverpool on 9 March.

The Foxes won 2-0 to reach the last four of the competition for the first time.

Leicester have lost the two matches they have played since, being beaten by Tottenham and Brighton in the WSL.

Foster and Kirby will continue to lead the team while Leicester search for a new permanent manager.

Former Everton manager Kirk joined the WSL club in the summer of 2022, initially as a director of football before succeeding Lydia Bedford as boss in November.

Last season he guided Leicester from the bottom of the WSL to safety and they were seventh in the table this season when he was suspended.

Leicester said the code of conduct which they found Kirk to have breached was "established and implemented" before the 2023-24 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," Leicester added.

Their decision, announced on Thursday, comes amid scrutiny and recent condemnation of player-coach relationships in women's football.

In February, former Leicester manager Jonathan Morgan was sacked by Sheffield United after "new information came to light about his conduct" before he joined the club.

Morgan's former management agency ended their relationship with him and said in a statement it had "learnt new information regarding Jonathan Morgan and a relationship with a player".

Why player-coach relationships in women's football remain an issue

Player-coach relationships are not illegal - as long as no minors are involved - albeit they can breach codes of conduct.

Codes of conduct among players and managers are a condition of clubs getting a WSL licence, and every club must have a safeguarding officer in place.

Personal relationships between players and coaches in women's football have been criticised for potentially creating a power imbalance in a squad.

England manager Sarina Wiegman has described them as "very inappropriate" and "not healthy".

Several WSL managers - including Aston Villa's Carla Ward and Tottenham boss Robert Vilahamn - said player-coach relationships crossed a line.

Speaking before Kirk's sacking, Ward said she thought a relationship between a manager and a player should "100%" lead to the team boss being dismissed.

Football Association director of women's football Baroness Campbell said in 2018 that she regarded player-coach personal relationships as "a concern".

Relationship matters contributed to Mark Sampson's sacking as England manager in 2017. He lost his job after what the FA described as "inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour" with players in a previous role at Bristol Academy.

Same-sex player relationships are common in the game, where the WSL only turned professional in 2018.