People: Woman footballer `humiliated' in a male world

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The male-dominated world of football came under fire for alleged sex discrimination yesterday as the Football Association faced its first industrial tribunal complaint from would-be coach Vanessa Hardwick. The 32-year-old PE teacher was refused an advanced coaching licence at the end of a course, but claims that former players from clubs like Liverpool and West Ham passed despite getting worse marks. She launched the potentially mould-breaking complaint after FA assessors branded her coaching skills "naive and schoolboy-like."

Miss Hardwick, from Ickenham, west London, is only one of three women to hold an intermediate licence. She is an FA county coach for Berkshire and Buckinghamshire and plays for Burnham Ladies.

She needs an advanced licence to coach at the highest level, and wants to work in the US. "It's a male world dominated by men telling male jokes and I was excluded," she told the London North industrial tribunal yesterday on the opening day of the Equal Opportunities Commission-backed case.

"I felt and still feel humiliated by the failure. The worst thing is the lack of women coaches and the state of the women's game."

Elizabeth Slade, counsel for the FA, told the tribunal: "Those who go on this course want to coach football at a very high level. That includes coaching in the Premiership and for a national team. In order to obtain that licence, the highest standard of skill in practice needs to be demonstrated."

Kamesh Bahl, the EOC's chairwoman, said: "We want to see fair play. We want women to have the same opportunity to participate in sport as men. "

Miss Hardwick told the tribunal that the course damaged her self-esteem and confidence. "The course was physically and emotionally demanding and not being one of the boys made it more intimidating and stressful - not being in with innuendoes and jokes. The case is the second involving football. In 1995 the EOC backed a successful claim by Georgina Christoforou, who wanted to become an assistant referee, against the South East Counties Football League. Rugby, squash, boxing and pool have likewise each been successfully sued by women.