As an organisation working with the Premier League to increase awareness of domestic violence and the sexist attitudes that underpin violence against women, Women’s Aid was shocked to read over the weekend of the sexist and derogatory language used in emails between a lawyer and Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the organisation.
Women’s Aid Chief Executive Polly Neate said:
“We were appalled by the sexist language that we read in the papers over the weekend and particularly dismayed that this conversation involved an individual leading an organisation that had agreed to add much needed and influential support to a campaign we are developing, working to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexist behaviour. In fact, it illustrates all too well why the campaign is needed. We have thought long and hard about the future of this partnership. However, the support of the Premier League is critical to the campaign’s success, and we are also encouraged by their further commitment to engage Women’s Aid internally to assist with developing best workplace practice in countering sexist attitudes and behaviour.”
World Cup domestic violence risk: Why football really needs help
With the World Cup nearly upon us, Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, explains why the charity is dedicated to changing football culture and working with the Premier League, in spite of Richard Scudamore’s sexist comments
Football is core to the nation’s identity, but it certainly isn’t one that offers equal voice and opportunity to men and women. It is largely dominated by male players, male managers and big organisations such as the Premier League which are headed up by male chief executives such as Richard Scudamore.
At Women’s Aid, we were appalled by the sexist and derogatory language which was used in several of Scudamore’s leaked emails, as we had just started to work with the Premier League to campaign against domestic violence and the sexist attitudes that underpin violence against women. So, does this mean we stop working with the Premier League? No, it means the opposite. It means we have some serious work to do.
With the World Cup only a few weeks away, Women’s Aid is launching a full-on campaign with the football community to coincide with the beginning of the tournament. Our partnership will focus on combatting domestic violence – which we know is a significant problem after games.
It is very easy to dismiss sexist comments as japes or as comments which have been taken out of context, but they can have a significant impact on our culture. Within football, sexist attitudes can stop women feeling welcome at football grounds, no matter how much female fans they love the game. Casual comments on Twitter with the hashtag #evertonwivesrunforyourlives and ‘jokes’ about convicted rapist Ched Evans, the former Sheffield United and Wales striker, coming back “to rape your defences” only serve to trivialise violence against women, which affects at least one in four women at some point in their lifetime.
We believe that these voices come from a minority and that many people would never dream of being sexist or abusive. The footballing community is of course a massive cross-section of society, made up of both the good and the bad. However, we also know that it is often the minority that we hear the loudest, and this is why it is so important that everyone else speaks out.
This is why we are currently working with a number of partners within football, including the Premier League, to, excuse the pun, tackle abusive behaviour and attitudes towards women, both within the context of the footballing world and in society more generally. We have thought long and hard about continuing the partnership, and we have come to the conclusion that walking away won’t achieve anything. We will work with the Premier League to develop workplace policies that directly address sexism and violence against women, and we are aiming to have real long-term impact in the football community through our campaigning work.
We hope the widespread criticism of the comments made in Scudamore’s email conversations mean that calling out sexism is becoming less of a minority sport.