TV presenter walks out of sport awards over sexism
An organisation representing Scottish sports writers has apologised after an awards event speech prompted a walkout.
TV presenter Eilidh Barbour was among guests who left Sunday’s Scottish Football Writers’ Association (SFWA) gala dinner in Glasgow in protest.
Ms Barbour tweeted that she had “never felt so unwelcome in the industry” while others have described the jokes as “sexist, racist and homophobic”.
The SFWA said it apologised to anyone “offended or upset” by the speech.
It has also promised to review and improve the format of the annual dinner, which involves the presentation of awards including player and manager of the year.
The controversy centred on jokes made in a speech by Bill Copeland, a lawyer who works on the after-dinner speaking circuit.
Never felt so unwelcome in the industry I work in than sitting at the Scottish Football Writers Awards. A huge reminder there is still so much to do in making our game an equal place #callitout #equalgame
— Eilidh Barbour 💙🤍 (@EilidhBarbour) May 8, 2022
BBC and Sky Sports presenter Barbour was among two tables of guests who were so offended that they walked out in protest.
Journalist and author Gabriella Bennett, who was at one of the tables, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Lunchtime Live programme she had heard misogynistic comments at previous SFWA events, but that Sunday’s speech was “the next level”.
“I walked out after about five minutes of maybe a 20-minute speech, and within those five minutes it was rammed with sexist jokes,” she said.
She said she finally decided to go after hearing an “offensive racial slur”.
Ms Bennett continued: “My table stood up to leave and I saw Eilidh Barbour and people on her table stand up to leave – but it’s also worth pointing out there were lots of people laughing at these jokes.
“We were two tables in an enormous room and lots of people found it really funny.”
Ms Bennett, a member of the Women in Journalism group, said the incident was part of a wider problem in sports journalism where only three out of 95 staff writers in the print side of the industry are women.
She added: “What those three women told us – and maybe other women who are working in sports journalism, maybe in broadcasting – would make your hair stand on end.
“Some really, really, shocking testimonials from everything from intimidating atmospheres at football press boxes to sneering attitudes to women in sports.”
Former Scotland international Leanne Crichton, who was also at the dinner, said she left the event feeling “disheartened”.
‘A stark reminder’
“I don’t think it was reflective of everyone who was in the room, and there are lots of positive strides,” she told the BBC.
But she added: “There’s still a long way to go and I think last night was a stark reminder of that.”
Kick it Out, a campaign against racism in football, and Women in Football issued a joint statement describing the remarks at the dinner as “sexist, racist and homophobic”.
It said: “Woman face sexism and misogyny in society and this is often exacerbated when they play a role in football or other sports – whether they’re a player, a pundit or fan. That must change.
“Racism and homophobia continue to be a stain on the game, and we must continue to challenge it and eradicate it.”.
Aileen Campbell, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Football, told the BBC was a disappointing incident, but said the general direction of travel in the game was positive.
She said: “You think what a shame – we make great strides and then fall back a few paces as well.
“For me, it’s as Leanne said – people are empowered enough now to call it out. We don’t want to tolerate misogyny, nor should we.”
The speaker, Bill Copeland, has been approached for comment. A speakers’ agency that represents him said he stood by the SFWA’s statement.
It 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 SFWA was formed more than 60 years ago to look after the interests of professional football writers in Scotland.
Hearts keeper Craig Gordon was named player of the year and Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou manager of the year at the ceremony, while Manchester City’s Caroline Weir was winner of the inaugural women’s international player of the year.