Why I’m not offended by Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore’s “sexist” emails

By Laura Jones. On May 11, Sunday Mirror published sexist comments in a private email to friends, which were given to the paper by Richard Scudamore's former personal assistant. In spite of this, on Monday, the Premier League said that Scudamore would keep his job. On Tuesday, the Football Association said they would take no action against the Premier League Chief Executive. Laura Jones gives her thoughts on the saga.

Let she who is without sin cast the first stone

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Richard Scudamore has been Chief Executive of the Premier League since November 1999

I don’t often start articles with a caveat but I want to make some things clear from the start:

  • What Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, said in the discovered emails was sexist and derogatory to women.
  • The Premier League’s decision to take ‘no further action’ was wrong. Some sanction should have been carried out.

I realise that by writing this next part I’m opening myself up to criticism and I am by no means on the side of the ineffable Katie Hopkins who said that this was just “banter”.

A good male friend of mine once said to me that he’s wary of women because you should “never trust something that bleeds for a week and doesn’t die.”

He was joking. I laughed. It was factual and funny. It was also incredibly sexist.

My male friend is one of the kindest and most supportive people I’ve ever met. He’s encouraged me every step of the way in my writing endeavours and he never questions that I know more about football than he does.

I would never label him as a sexist and speaking for myself: ‘let she who is without sin cast the first stone.’

If you look at how outrage has changed the world of advertising you can see that never again will there be a clever or capable man shown in an advert where it contains mixed gender characters. The man is there for the woman to roll her eyes at and come to the rescue of the stupidity of the man.

I can only imagine the outcry if Coca-Cola rolled a cold beverage down a hillside to encourage a woman to take off her top as they do with a man in the Diet Coke adverts. Would this be described as ‘banter’ if women used such a word?

The perception of harassment and bullying is judged by the perceived level of offence. If I’m not offended by default does it make me a sexist?

I’m not offended by Richard Scudamore’s comments because what he’s said is pathetic and childish. The whole Premier League set-up reminds me of an all-boys school where the main hobbies are taking the piss, flicking each other’s bits and talking about breasts. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some emails about flatulence within the evidence. There we go again, is this a generalised sexist statement for me to make?

Discrimination comes when there is unjust or prejudicial treatment of different people. Equality is about having the equality of opportunity and status. This is where the closed community of the game of football is failing.

The Premier League needs to reform. I am in no way questioning that it is an organisation that is institutionalised. Its locker room syndrome of middle-aged white men is out dated and needs to be reflective of the society we live in and of the supporters it seeks to fleece.

The Premier League all-boys school will go co-ed and that for some men is a scary prospect.

The way women change narrow minds in the workplace is to do a consistently good job, prove that they are capable and creative and be an asset to an organisation.

My fear is that the outrage will open the Premier League up to tokenism. I wouldn’t want a job handed to me because of positive discrimination or just to fill a quota. Just because someone protests loudly doesn’t mean they deserve or are the best qualified person for the job.

I worked in an organisation where one particular woman used the discrimination card at every promotion stage when her application was sifted. Every time she was promoted on the back of this because the organisation was scared to death of being taken to employment tribunal. The angering aspect for me, as a woman, was that this female employee’s application was sifted because she was the least qualified to do the job each time but was promoted above better qualified male employees. Is that not discrimination from a male perspective? Is this a way to get men to respect us?

Rani Abraham is the personal assistant who exposed the emails sent from Scudamore

Rani Abraham is the personal assistant who exposed the emails sent from Scudamore

Rani Abraham, Scudamore’s PA, insists she received the emails to her desktop which she had to access as part of her role. The chief executive has been less forthcoming, insisting that the email account was private. As Scudamore disagrees with what level of access his PA had to his personal emails, he may now have trust issues with future PA’s. Trust is an important factor in changing a person’s perceptions. He may become more PR savvy about what he says in public but I suggest his opinions on the ‘fairer sex’ will be forever worsened.

Other women who work for the Premier League were allegedly consulted and sited the Premier League main man’s conduct and behaviour towards them has been “beyond reproach.” Karren Brady, as vice-chairman of West Ham United, has said that Scudamore is “categorically not sexist.”

So who do we believe? There certainly isn’t enough evidence in the public domain to make this judgement and the majority of people who are sharpening the axe for Scudamore are purely speculating what other evidence there could be.

From a HR perspective the offence, committed in the workplace, meant his actions deserved no more than a reprimand with a final warning should anything further happen. The calls for him to be sacked are unjustifiable without additional evidence. In the case of Andy Gray and Richard Keys, the evidence was overwhelming and persistent. So far Scudamore’s case isn’t comparable.

Andy Gray and Richard Keys were forced out of Sky after sexist off-air comments about assistant referee Sian Massey

Andy Gray and Richard Keys were forced out of Sky after sexist off-air comments about assistant referee Sian Massey

The Premier League’s decision to take “no further action” was poor, the incident warranted some acceptance of culpability. It also needed an independent hearing to discuss the matter, not an already scheduled meeting between the four members, where the main agenda item was finance.

The Premier League chief executive’s arrogance towards the process is what has made this situation more unpalatable. But is he sexist? Could he have been playing up to the audience he was with? I don’t know him, only those that do can make that judgement.

This is the time to have a debate about the Premier League becoming a more inclusive organisation but I feel it will act like a company that has had its hand forced.

To become supportive and encouraging to women who want to work in football, the men involved don’t have to be angelic, they have to understand that our needs maybe different to theirs. Moral outrage doesn’t fix the endemic problem of a fairer workplace for women in football: it only pushes the culture further back into the closet.

What this needs is a measured investigation and approach, not whoever shouts the loudest getting what they want.

Is this rational enough?

The crux of my argument is that the governance of the game is found wanting. The FA do not have the genitalia (being non-gender biased there) to govern the Premier League, although it is their role to set the standards across the whole of the English game.

I am irrational at times. I once cried because I couldn’t unlock a door. It doesn’t mean that I’m not good at my job, even when I manage to get into the room. I’ve said derogatory things about men before but I wouldn’t class myself as a sexist.

We’re too quick to label people and too cut-throat when things don’t go the way we want them. What Scudamore said was offensive to women but I’m not angered by him. In the context of what’s happening in this country it is a mere pimple on the arse of the game. Irritating, and now it’s been sat on, about to burst.

Read more from Laura Jones here!

Follow @YICETOR

1 Comment on Why I’m not offended by Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore’s “sexist” emails

  1. I agree. What he said was sexist, and where he said it was inappropriate but in the privacy of somebody’s home with male and female friends I think it would of been taken as the joke it was and nobody would of been offended. Scudamore is probably a product of his environment which I can imagine being a bit of a boy’s club. The decision makers in the FA are predominantly male and ideally that should change but in reality most women I know don’t have that much interest in football. If the ratio of women that had interest in football was the same as men’s then I think there would be a lot more women competing for those roles in the organisation.

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