The Scottish Football Writers’ Association has apologized after allegations of sexist, racist, and homophobic slurs were made during a speech at their awards ceremony on Sunday.
The banquet honored Sir Alex Ferguson with a lifetime achievement award, but it was overshadowed by criticism of keynote speaker Bill Copeland.
Eilidh Barbour, a sports broadcaster, did not identify Copeland in her tweet, but said she had “never felt so unwelcome in the business I work” and added: “A massive reminder there is still so much work to be done in making our game an equitable place.”
The SFWA apologized to anyone hurt or distressed by material from one of our after-dinner presenters at last night’s annual awards ceremony.
“We have unanimously agreed that this will serve as a catalyst for reviewing and improving the format of our future events in order to make them more fun and inspirational for everyone.”
“Women suffer discrimination and misogyny in society,” the “Women in Football” network and football’s premier equality organization Kick it Out said in a joint statement.
“This has to change. Racism and homophobia are stains on the game, which we must continue to confront and eradicate. Discrimination has no place in sport or anyplace else.”
Gabriella Bennett, the co-chair of the “Women in Journalism” group, was also present and said it wasn’t the first time she’d heard rude remarks at the event.
“Last night was probably the sixth or seventh time I’ve attended this dinner,” she stated on the BBC’s Lunchtime Live radio show. “The speakers are continually making off-color jokes, and by off-color, I mean sexist or misogynistic.
“Last night’s speech was very extraordinary. I left after about five minutes of a 20-minute lecture that was crammed with sexist jokes, and I saw Eilidh Barbour and her table rise to depart.
“It’s also worth noting that a lot of people laughed at these jokes.” We were at two tables in a huge room, and a lot of people thought it was hilarious. We still have a lot of work to do to change people’s ideas about what is acceptable.”
At yesterday’s event, BBC Sport broadcaster Eilidh Barbour and Women in Journalism Scotland co-chair Gabriella Bennett both led a protest walkout and tweeted about it without mentioning Mr. Copeland.
Following a response on Twitter, a representative for Mr. Copeland and the SFWA both apologized for any offense caused, and his agency dropped him as an after-dinner speaker.
Kick It Out and Women In Football issued a joint statement condemning the statements, stating the SFWA awards should not be used as a forum to disseminate insulting and discriminatory views, making those groups and communities feel excluded and disrespected.’
Bennett described herself as “sickened” but not “shocked.”
Attendees “feel unwelcomed inside the industry they work in,” according to Women in Football and Kick It Out.
“We accept the Scottish Football Writers’ Association’s apologies and look forward to their promised evaluation of future events,” the statement continued.
“In the interim, we’ll reach out to learn more about the situation and offer our support to individuals who are affected.”
Gordon Poole and Neil Drover, two organizations that have previously dealt with Copeland, verified to me that the former lawyer was not engaged in the event through their services.
‘The Scottish Football Writers’ Association apologizes to anyone offended or outraged by content from one of our after-dinner speakers at last night’s annual awards event,’ an SFWA representative stated.
‘We have unanimously agreed that this will serve as a catalyst for reviewing and improving the format of our future events in order to make them more fun and inspirational for everyone.’