Shock­ing cru­elty and nas­ti­ness of this mess must be ad­dressed

Rest as­sured, there is plenty more where the Ward episode came from

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football -

Foot­ball’s dis­crim­i­na­tion prob­lem, which it shares with much of so­ci­ety, will not be wholly solved by di­ver­sity train­ing or cor­po­rate sanc­tions for clubs. From fans all the way up to own­ers, in­di­vid­ual ac­count­abil­ity is the route to change.

The Lucy Ward case re­veals shock­ing cru­elty by the then regime at Leeds United. Even that sen­tence is prob­lem­atic, be­cause it sug­gests the whole of the club was in­fected by di­nosaur think­ing. In fact, an em­ploy­ment tri­bunal judg­ment pointed the fin­ger at three men who con­trived to re­move Ward from her job: Mas­simo Cellino, the owner, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Adam Pear­son and ex-club sec­re­tary Stu­art Hay­ton. None has been sanctioned by the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, who in­stead con­cluded that the judg­ment had ap­plied to Leeds, the in­sti­tu­tion, rather than the peo­ple who ran it.

There is a lot of nas­ti­ness in this story. A spu­ri­ous case was built against Ward. The al­le­ga­tion that she was “ab­sent with­out au­thor­ity

[from Leeds]” when cov­er­ing the 2015 Women’s World Cup was ad­judged to be “a sham”.

Equally dis­grace­ful is the joint dis­missal of Ward and men’s team man­ager Neil Red­fearn on the grounds that they “came as a pair,” as if Ward had no pro­fes­sional value of her own.

Foot­ball has seen the flood­gates open over the past two years on dis­crim­i­na­tion, bul­ly­ing and abuse. For decades it was a closed repub­lic, trapped in its own world view. And rest as­sured, there is plenty more where the Lucy Ward episode came from. The game’s ju­di­cial sys­tem is over­whelmed, and some­times looks for short­cuts, which is the im­pres­sion one gains from look­ing at the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s han­dling of Ward.

First, she in­sists she was not in­ter­viewed when the de­tails of the judg­ments against Cellino, Pear­son and Hay­ton were heard. The FA has been ac­cused of this be­fore, in the Eni Aluko case, and needs a rule that says vic­tims, and ac­cusers, must al­ways be spo­ken to. In Ward’s case, the FA made sure her £290,000 pay­ment for un­fair dis­missal and sex­ual dis­crim­i­na­tion had been re­ceived, and told Leeds to con­duct an equal­ity and di­ver­sity train­ing course, but stopped there, claim­ing the “thresh­old” for pro­ceed­ing against Cellino, Pear­son and Hay­ton “was not met”.

This is where the sys­tem falls down. Leeds merely took part in the EFL’S stan­dard equal­ity and di­ver­sity train­ing, while the three per­pe­tra­tors of Ward’s sack­ing moved on to fresh chal­lenges, un­pun­ished. Ward ev­i­dently feels that her ar­gu­ment pre­vailed but that jus­tice then lost the will to pro­ceed be­yond a cor­po­rate judg­ment and a pay­out.

Her de­ter­mi­na­tion to pur­sue the case ought to show us that peo­ple who feel wronged in this way are not sat­is­fied by neat so­lu­tions that al­low in­di­vid­u­als to escape a reck­on­ing.

This fits a pat­tern in foot­ball. Cul­prits are hid­ing be­hind gen­er­alised re­ports on “cul­tures” and cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­ity. Warn­ings are is­sued. Train­ing cour­ses, which have value, but not in iso­la­tion, be­come a panacea. This al­lows peo­ple to bully and dis­crim­i­nate with im­punity, know­ing the club will take the rap.

The regime that treated Ward so nas­tily at Leeds has gone now. But the cul­ture that al­lowed it is still preva­lent in parts of foot­ball. Those who in­flict it on peo­ple to whom they owe a duty of care need to be held to ac­count in­di­vid­u­ally. That alone will truly “re­train” them.

CHIEF SPORTS WRITER PAUL HAY­WARD

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