Scottish football awards apologises for 'sexist, racist and homophobic' speech
The Scottish Football Writers’ Association has apologised after a speech at its awards ceremony on Sunday led to walkouts over alleged sexist, racist and homophobic comments.
Sir Alex Ferguson received a lifetime achievement award at the dinner, but it was overshadowed by complaints against keynote speaker Bill Copeland.
Sports broadcaster Eilidh Barbour did not name Copeland – though others later did – but tweeted that she had “never felt so unwelcome in the industry I work” and added: “A huge reminder there is still so much to do in making our game an equal place”.
The SFWA said: “The Scottish Football Writers’ Association apologises to anyone offended or upset by material from one of our after-dinner speakers at last night’s annual awards dinner.
“We have agreed unanimously that this will act as a catalyst to review and improve the format of our future events to make it an enjoyable and inspirational event for all.”
The “Women in Football” network and football’s leading equality charity Kick it Out issued a joint statement, saying: “Women face sexism and misogyny in society, and this is often exacerbated when they play a role in football and other sports – whether they’re a player, a pundit or a fan.
“That must change. Racism and homophobia also continue to be a stain on the game, and we must continue to challenge it and eradicate it. There is no place for any form of discrimination, in sport or anywhere else.”
Journalist Gabriella Bennett, who co-chairs the group “Women in Journalism”, was also in attendance and said it was not the first time she had heard offensive comments at the event.
“Last night was probably the sixth or seventh time I have attended this dinner,” she said on BBC radio programme Lunchtime Live. “There are always off-colour jokes made by the speakers, and I am using off coloured as a descriptive word, but what I mean is sexist or misogynistic.
“Last night’s speech was really next-level. I walked out after about five minutes of maybe a 20-minute speech, and within those five minutes that was rammed with sexist jokes, and I saw Eilidh Barbour and her table stand up to leave.
“It is also worth pointing out that there were loads of people laughing at these jokes. We were two tables in an enormous room and lots of people found it really funny. There is lots of work we still need to do in changing people’s minds about what is acceptable.”
Bennett said she was “sickened” but added she was “no longer shocked”.
Women in Football and Kick it Out said it was “unacceptable” that attendees “felt unwelcome within the industry they work”.
“We acknowledge the apology issued by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association and look forward to their promised review of future events,” the statement added.
“In the meantime, we will be reaching out to understand the full details and offer our support to those affected.”
Two agencies who have previously worked with Copeland, Gordon Poole and Neil Drover, confirmed to that the former lawyer was not booked for the event through their services.