Female football agent ruled offside

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THE ONLY female football agent in England is being refused entry to the players' award ceremony because she is a woman. Rachel Anderson, 40, was last year turned away at the door from the Professional Football Association's award ceremony, which is held at a London hotel.

When she was invited to this year's ceremony, on 5 April, by the West Ham player Julian Dicks, she and Mr Dicks contacted the PFA in advance to make sure the same thing would not happen.

She was told in a letter from Gordon Taylor, PFA chief executive: "The PFA awards dinner has been a men-only evening for the 25 years since its inception and the PFA management committee have made a decision that it should remain so."

Ms Anderson, a respected Football Association licensed agent, represents 27 footballers, including Mr Dicks and Michael Hughes, who is also at West Ham. In her seven years working in football Ms Anderson said this is the only time she has encountered sexism.

The Professional Football Association is a trade union for past and present professional footballers, and is affiliated to the TUC. Its annual dinner includes an award bestowed by the players , and is considered the most prestigious accolade a footballer can receive. At last year's ceremony Ms Anderson was turned away when her ticket was checked by Brendan Batson, the PFA's deputy chief executive. Ms Anderson said: "He came up to me and said: 'There seems to have been some mistake. You can't come in, it's men-only'."

When Ms Anderson asked Mr Batson, who is black, how he would feel if he were turned away on the grounds of his race, he replied: "It is not the same issue at all."

When Mr Dicks wrote to the PFA aboutits treatment of Ms Hunter, he was told by Mr Taylor: "Wherever possible we attempt to be progressive. I do not consider the policy of the management committee on this matter to be regressive ... As a matter of fact you are the only one of our members who has written to ask a female guest to accompany them in 25 years."

The PFA told Ms Anderson it would end its men-only rule once women became members of the association. However, this is unlikely to happen in the near future, as the PFA represents professional players and the women's game in this country remains amateur. Katherine Knight of the FA said the association was fully committed to the participation of women in football as spectators, players and administrators. She said: "The PFA's treatment of Rachel Anderson does seem to go against the general trend in the football in the way women are being viewed."