By Tony Attwood
What is it with senior football men, and women?
As we all remember, in 2011, the ludicrous Sky Sports pair of Richard Keys and Andy Gray were eventually forced to resign after they made a whole serious of sexist comments about women.
BT Sport obviously didn’t think the affair was too important because in February 2014, to their eternal shame, the station brought back Gray as a pundit with the channel.
Now I am sure that sexist commentaries are commonplace among some men (although not among my own circle of friends). But Grays and Keys were commentators on TV – indeed Gray has continued to work for TV stations that show UK football to English audiences in north Africa. As such he really should know better than the sing “get your tits out” etc etc at a game.
Now, just as I’m sorting out attendance at the Women’s Cup Final (which fortunately for me this year is being played not too far from where I live – and which of course is between Arsenal Ladies and Everton) – we have yet more stupid boorish behaviour we have Richard Scudamore telling sexist jokes.
And the response of the FA is to do … nothing, because the communication was in a private email and isn’t really their responsibility.
OK, privacy is one thing, but it isn’t everything. At one time I was a university lecturer, and let’s imagine I had made highly sexist disparaging remarks about female lecturers in letters or emails. I am fairly sure I would have been strongly disciplined, and warned about my future conduct. The defence that these were private would not have been of any use to me I am sure. Indeed I can say for certain if any of my male colleagues ever did such a thing within the company I run they were be given a very severe formal warning, and told that one further incident of that sort and they would be out.
The FA general secretary Alex Horne really let rip (I’m being cynical here), saying, “It is important I communicate to all staff how disappointed all of us are in the tone and nature of the content of these emails which we believe is totally inappropriate. Richard is not an employee of the FA and the matter is one for the Premier League to address considering their respective policies. The issue is something we will continue to monitor.”
Oh really! “Disappointed”. “Monitor”. Come on – this is a guy who has a special place in football and holds an office which is of significance in the UK. And all we can say is “disappointed.” “Demand strong and immediate action from the League” is more in keeping with what should have been said.
I don’t particularly enjoy it if people around me at Arsenal make sexist comments (although actually that is very unusual these days) but I wouldn’t do anything about it. Same in the pub. I don’t act because I don’t think such comments (unlike homophobic and racist comments) are illegal.
But Gray, Keys, Scudamore – these are public figures with different responsibilities and legality is not the issue here.
As for the Premier League – they have basically done nothing (other than saying that a process is underway) while allowing Scudamore to use the “private emails exchanged between colleagues and friends of many years” excuse and saying that they “should not have been accessed by the temporary employee”.
That is rather like Man City fans defending the fact that their club has failed FFP by talking about the price of season tickets at Arsenal.
Meanwhile a meeting of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board has been called for next week by the board’s chair, the independent FA board member Heather Rabbatts.. But… Rabbatts has confirmed that Scudamore had not been in breach of FA rules.
In fact it is starting to look like he hasn’t broken any rules. Given that Scudamore has run the PL for something like 15 years one might hope he would have learned a thing or two about holding this type of office, but it seems not, presumably because he has learned that he can get away with this sort of thing as much as he wants.
Sexism is rampant in and around football, and it really should not be. Most of our society has moved away from the notion of treating women differently from men, and sexism is being placed alongside racism and homophobia. However with clubs and the police still often failing to take action on homophobia, (I refer you to my many earlier pieces on this) it seems we have still got such a long way to go.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal
- Books on Arsenal at a discount
- How a 14th monk described Arsenal’s failure to buy Moisés Caicedo and Mykhailo Mudryk
- The January transfer window moved few players around: but did any club benefit?
- Are Newcastle United really in financial difficulty? And what about Arsenal?
- Did Arsenal want Mudryk and Caicedo, and was it just luck that they didn’t sign them?
- Is the Premier League getting more exciting or simply ever more predictable?