Richard Scudamore’s emails have caught the headlines yet the everyday misogyny rife in football is rarely deemed worthy of mention

Just a laugh, a woman who wants to be anywhere but that room, and the gilded football world moves on

If you’re looking for real evidence of football’s sneering, misogynistic attitude to women then there have been many more revealing places to look over the past few years than the email account of the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Scudamore.

You could have been present at Cardiff’s Celtic Manor hotel when a Welsh woman journalist asked Sepp Blatter how one might secure a professional role with Fifa. “Lady, I’m single,” Blatter replied, to general male amusement. You could have been there when a high-profile manager at the top of the English game gave a withering response to a woman TV reporter the season before last and enjoyed a good laugh at her expense five minutes later, when in the company of all-male newspaper reporters. Or when radio reporter Michelle Evans had the temerity to ask Gordon Strachan about a particularly poor defeat when he was Celtic manager. “Explaining it to you is impossible,” Strachan told her. “It would be like you explaining childbirth to me.”

Things hadn’t moved on since Sir Alex Ferguson wrote to a woman physio who had applied for a job at Manchester United, to tell her that “most of the players felt that football was very much a male sport and did not really like the thought of females being involved with the treatment of sports injuries within the training complex”. Only last December Laurent Blanc, managing Paris Saint-Germain, told a Swedish journalist, Aftonbladet’s Johanna Franden, who had asked him about his shift from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3: “Women talking football tactics, it’s so beautiful. I think it’s fantastic. You know what 4-3-3 means – don’t you?”

If some or all of these incidents are news to you, it is because they barely warranted a place in the margins of the football conversation. Check any of them out and you’ll see: Ferguson – one newspaper reference, Strachan – two, Blatter – none, Blanc – none. Just a laugh, a flustered press officer, a woman who wants to be anywhere but that room, and the gilded football world packs up and moves on.

Read more: Women in Football call for independent inquiry
Scudamore to face 'no further action' over emails
The Last Word: Scudamore's big mistake

Scudamore’s clubby email chat with his lawyer pal Nick West is different. Who am I to say how the women who read it might have felt? But the offence was certainly compounded by the fact that some of the misogyny was about one of his own people. You despair that a £1.8m salary did not bring enough emotional intelligence to make this man see that the situation required an immediate, fulsome apology, and perhaps an orchestrated briefing with which to deliver it.

Scudamore was devastated last Monday, after the story broke: that much was clear from staff who saw him early that morning. But he just could not see beyond his own understandable indignation about a temporary secretary, whose employment at the Premier League had totalled a mere seven weeks, syphoning off hundreds of his emails and publishing the tasty ones when it suited her.

Contrition might also have allowed nuance to speak its name – giving voice to some significant distinctions in this story. That it was Scudamore’s chum who came out with the worst of the misogyny. And that the senior Premier League executive whom Scudamore warned West to keep off his “shaft” feels this business has been overblown.

She, Peta Bistany, certainly did not seem to have been got at by the Premier League’s communications staff when she conveyed that to a journalist on Friday. After a lot of conversations about this, I find it hard to dispel the notion that everyone was involved in innuendo about graphite shafts, before a golf day in which Mrs Bistany was to have been a participant. You hesitate to write this and be consigned to the Neanderthal camp, too. But facts found scant space last week when a media storm took hold and Scudamore – a man with a noticeable lack of friends – was engulfed.

It would be harder to sustain the argument that he should keep his job if there was a vast reservoir of evidence out there of his serial misogyny. The Premier League always felt that there would be no fresh allegations in the Sunday Mirror’s second splash on Sunday. But that is not to say that the last 10 days have been of no significance. Women in football ought to take from this storm a far greater expectation that the Blatter, Strachan and Blanc school of gender equality will be consigned to the past. And that the recipients of some of the worst of all this stuff – women journalists – will not just have to sit by when a manager takes the mickey and the rest of the blokes laugh along.

It’s about two months since Women in Football – an organisation whose 1,000 members are all in full-time jobs within the sport – responded in very high percentages to a survey about their workplace experiences. Nearly 60 per cent said they had witnessed sexist banter. Around 54 per cent said they worried that their appearance was judged ahead of their ability to do their jobs. “I’ve pretty much experienced it all. I’ve been slapped on the backside by a colleague and asked to ‘get the tea’, said one respondent. “You can imagine my response.” The story was published in one national newspaper.

Mike Ingham, the master of eloquence not just witter

A light has gone out on Wembley now that BBC Radio’s Mike Ingham has commentated on his last FA Cup final. In a world where the command of language seems to carry dwindling significance and 140 characters are everything, Ingham was a beacon for me.

We talked about language last year when I was writing about football commentators and there was even an eloquence in the way he remembered those of his brethren whom he had loved most: like the BBC’s Bryon Butler, whose words “fitted like an overcoat in winter and made you feel comfortable and warm,” as Ingham remembered it.

There was also the imitable Peter Jones, remembered for the empathy and eloquence with which he described the scenes which unfolded at Hillsborough, on the dark afternoon in 1989 when 96 lives were lost. “Peter could have described a couple of ants, crawling across the floorboards,” Ingham said. “He almost blue-printed the commentary that everyone else followed.”

John Motson tells me that he feels the proliferation of commentators and pundits has removed the audience’s awareness of those behind the microphone, while Ingham suggested the abundance of live games removes  the sense of “an event”. It was fitting that his final final should have been such an indelible one.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own