The Premier League delivered a defiant message of support to their chief executive Richard Scudamore today, deciding that he will face no further disciplinary action over his sexist email scandal.
The league gave Scudamore, 54, unprecedented backing over the saga which has seen him under greater pressure than at any other time in his 15 years in charge of the organisation – a move that will dismay the many enemies of the so-called most powerful man in English football. The clubs’ statement cited Scudamore’s “previously unblemished” record, and the testimony of women working at the Premier League, in support of their chief executive.
The investigation into Scudamore was carried out by Peter McCormick, the acting Premier League chairman, and the only other member of the league’s board – a corporate structure which has attracted criticism. McCormick said in his statement on behalf of the clubs that he had used external legal help, a London law firm, to examine all Scudamore’s email correspondence and found “no evidence of wider discriminatory attitudes or inappropriate language or a general attitude of disrespect to women”.
The decision was endorsed unanimously by representatives of the 17 surviving Premier League clubs - the shares to the three newly–promoted clubs, one still to be determined, have not yet been handed over. Among that number were two women, Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne and West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady.
In a personal statement, Scudamore said: “Entering into email exchanges of this nature was wrong and the apology I have made is sincere, as is the contrition I feel. These exchanges do not reflect my views towards women in football, the workplace or in general. It is something that will never be repeated.”
McCormick read out his recommendations at the meeting with Scudamore present. The chief executive then made himself available for questions before leaving the meeting while the matter was discussed and then voted upon.
The key points of McCormick’s statement on behalf of the club was that the temporary personal assistant, Rani Abraham, who gave the Scudamore emails to the Sunday Mirror, had searched them out, unauthorised, from a personal email account. The exchange with television rights lawyer Nick West was described as “private communications between friends of long-standing”.
The clubs found that the woman referred to in the emails as “Edna”, Peta Bistany, the league’s planning and projects’ director, was not offended by their content. They also satisfied themselves that there was “no climate of disrespect of women in the workplace” at the Premier League adding that “female staff with direct experience of working with or close to the chief executive have made it very clear that his conduct and behaviour have been beyond reproach.”
In his separate statement, Scudamore said that he would seek meetings with stake holders of the game to reassure them of his views towards women. He said he would do so to “seek their views and to reassure them that I will continue to do my utmost personally, and through all the Premier League’s means to help promote diversity and inclusion, develop the women’s game and support women who want be involved in football at any level.”
He added: “I am grateful for the support I have received throughout this from family, friends and colleagues, but especially the women who work with me at the Premier League.”
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister David Cameron had suggested that Scudamore should be sacked for his comments about women in the emails to West, saying that if it was one of his staff they would not survive in their job. He added that he had not seen the content of the emails in question.