Newell avoids sack over 'sexist' comments

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The Independent Online

Mike Newell has kept his job as Luton Town's manager but was "severely reprimanded" at a meeting with the club's board yesterday. Newell's future had been in doubt following comments he made at the weekend, when he said women officials should be banned from professional football and when he accused the club's chairman, Bill Tomlins, of "messing up" everything he had been involved in since taking the helm in 2004.

A statement on Luton Town's official website read: "The board have severely reprimanded Mike Newell for the comments made, and have warned him that any repetition will not be tolerated. The manager gave the necessary assurances and apologised for the comments he made."

Newell had already apologised to Amy Rayner, the assistant referee who was the target of his anger after last Saturday's home defeat by Queen's Park Rangers, but he refused to retract his comments about Tomlins.

In spite of this, after meeting the board yesterday afternoon, Newell - who signed a four-year contract earlier this season and is believed to earn an annual salary of about £400,000 - has hung on to his post at Kenilworth Road.

The statement continued: "The club disassociate ourselves totally with the comments Mike Newell made regarding the assistant referee, which are completely unacceptable. The club have accepted the manager's explanation and his subsequent public apology."

Newell had said Rayner's appointment amounted merely to "tokenism for politically-correct idiots", but apologised to her two days later.

The club's statement added: "The manager was also asked to explain his comments about the board and he accepted that his remarks were totally inappropriate."

Newell is no stranger to controversy. He claimed last January that bung-taking remained rife in football, prompting the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens to lead an investigation into his allegations. Stevens' inquiry has not yet reported its final findings.

Newell's comments about Tomlins displayed his frustration at what he perceived to be a lack of progress off the pitch. Negotiations over a proposed move to a new stadium appear to have stalled, there has been little money to spend on transfers, and the contracts of players such as the defender Markus Heikkinen and the winger Dean Morgan, who will be free agents next summer, have yet to be renewed. It remains to be seen whether Newell and Tomlins will now be able to work together in greater harmony.

* Les Reed, Charlton Athletic's new head coach, admits it will be a "long haul" to get the club out of danger at the bottom of the Premiership. Reed was installed as Charlton's third manager in 15 years on Monday, yet he is their second this season following the departure of Iain Dowie. Reed said: "In terms of amassing the amount of points we need, it is going to be a long haul, and because of that we need the fans with us all the way."

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