Woman football agent to begin sex bias case

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S only woman football agent will today start a legal battle accusing the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) of sex discrimination.

Rachel Anderson is claiming exemplary damages against the PFA for an alleged breach of the Sex Discrimination Act and "injury to feelings" after the association banned her from its awards ceremony in April this year. Her solicitors have lodged a claim at Central London County Court. She had been invited by the West Ham player Julian Dicks whom she represents, but was barred because of the "male only" policy.

The PFA is a trade union for past and present professional footballers and is affiliated to the TUC. The annual dinner includes an award bestowed by the players and is considered the most prestigious accolade a footballer can hope to receive.

This was not the first time that Mrs Anderson had been snubbed by the PFA. The year before, she was asked to leave the pre-drinks reception. "This just cannot be allowed to go on," she said yesterday. "The only criteria for attending is to be male and that does not make sense. If something is wrong you have got to make it right."

The sports minister Tony Banks and Graham Kelly, the Football Association's chief executive, both boycotted the ceremony this year in support of Mrs Anderson, and she has also received a letter of support from the Prime Minister. Mr Blair wrote: "In the light of your treatment by the PFA ... I support the action Tony Banks took in returning his invitation ... The Government deplores discrimination."

In June, Lord Razzall, a solicitor, presented a petition to peers calling on the Sex Discrimination Act to be changed to make the ban illegal.

Mrs Anderson says that the PFA argued she could not attend the ceremony because the dinner is for professional footballers and their guests and as there are no professional women players, it was a male-only event. But she claims that while she could not be a member she could be invited as a guest to attend PFA events.

Mrs Anderson, who has been an agent for seven years, has the support of the Football Association, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Trades Union Congress.

She is the only female football agent registered with the Football Association and Fifa the sport's world governing body and also represents Don Hutchison of Everton and Michael Hughes of Wimbledon.

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