Sports politics: Banks attacked over 'sexism'

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AS TESSA SANDERSON joined the English Sports Council yesterday, the Sports Minister, Tony Banks, was accused of sexual discrimination for his apparent determination to appoint a woman to lead the Council.

The 1984 Olympic javelin champion, who campaigns for the Labour Party, was appointed yesterday by Chris Smith, the Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, along with Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of Business In Sport and Leisure.

The appointments were overshadowed, though, by the allegations against Banks and Smith. The pair have rejected the recommendations of a selection panel saying that the pounds 20,000-a-year, part-time chairmanship, should be a choice between the acting chairman, Trevor Brooking, and the former world karate champion, Geoff Thompson.

These were the two men on a five-person shortlist with three women - Sanderson, Simmonds and the former netball international, Sue Campbell, of the Youth Sports Trust. An announcement about the vacant post was due two weeks ago, but instead it is to be re-advertised. Brooking has been asked to continue as interim chairman.

Thompson claimed yesterday he was a victim of "girl power gone mad". Thompson, 40, who is black, said: "In an age of political correctness it seems I may be the right colour but the wrong sex. In the past I've been excluded by social and ethnic identity but now it is because of gender."

The fact that Banks and Smith have declined to accept the recommendation of the panel chaired by the former Test cricketer, Raman Subba Row, has angered several leading figures in sport. It is believed that Banks wanted to appoint Sanderson, 42, despite her lack of experience in sport administration, seeing her as an ideal figurehead in his campaign to secure recognition for minority groups in sport.

Richard Spring, the Opposition sport spokesman, condemned the decision to shelve the appointment. "This is absolutely shambolic and typical of the way the department is handling sport. English sport deserves the best person to run it and the appointment should be made solely on merit."