A Woman In A Mans(field) World?

18 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   September 14, 2011  |     23

Mansfield Town have a new CEO, a 29-year-old who has a politics degree and has previously worked for some big fashion brands. Succeeding Steve Barker, the previous CEO, who has now moved on to a new role with Stags chairman John Radford’s company, the new appointee is keen to start working with local businesses, increase gates, work with the fans – you know, the usual stuff. It is a rite of passage that all new CEOs seem to have to go through these days.

At twenty-nine years of age, the newcomer at the Conference Premier side is one of the youngest in that role in the country and the press release on the club’s website is full of promising quotes, such as: “I intend to add vibrancy and fresh ideas to our approach off the field” and “Having attended numerous fundraising events, organised by the club’s supporters groups, I am well aware of the passion and enthusiasm that the fans have to see the Stags succeed.” Oh yeah, there’s one other thing. The new CEO is a woman, and Carolyn Still is her name. She’s got blonde hair and is a bit more photogenic than the average football director. And so the usual comments begin.

As the excellent Too Good To Go Down points out there is much written about the lack of managers, CEOs and directors from ethnic minorities and the need to stamp out racism in football, but as soon as a woman is thrown into the mix, even if they are ‘the sexiest CEO in football’ (a phrase that comes courtesy of the journalistic masterpiece which is the Metro) the inherent sexism which lies beneath the surface of the game bubbles right up to the top of the glass. Let’s not forget it is less than a year since loud-mouthed, neanderthal duo Richard Keys and Andy Gray were banished from Sky to TalkSport amid an outcry about sexism in football. It seems that a well presented young woman with an impressive CV (albeit one in which doesn’t include much in the way of footballing experience) can only be reported on with reference to her ‘sexiness.’

It iss hard to find one article which doesn’t refer to Miss Still’s appearance. Nevermind the fact she’s a businesswoman who has been trusted by the chairman to take on the CEO role – it wouldn’t matter if she had three heads and a tail – she is there to do a job and that’s what she should be judged on. But then its unlikely a new CEO of a non-league club would be making the headlines of national papers unless they had three heads and a tail or, alternatively, they were a young, glamorous blonde woman. But then again, we might look at the case of Manda Rigby, who was announced as the new chairman of Bath City (or “Chairmanda” as the club’s official Twitter feed rather wonderfully refers to her as) – she’s a woman too – there wasn’t the lads-mag banter which Miss Still has attracted when she was unveiled in her new role in August.

Instead, Ms Rigby, a councillor for Bath and North-East Somerset as well as an experienced businesswoman, had glowing recommendations from manager Adie Britton, praising her for being a ‘mad keen, passionate football fan’ and mentioning her dad’s playing career. Most of the reporting noted she was believed to be the only female chairperson in football, and Ms Rigby herself said, “In some ways I think it makes no difference. My business acumen and knowledge of football are the equal of any man. However, my style may be slightly different, and certainly I want to be as inclusive as possible.” But no one commented on her blonde hair, her looks or her age.

As one of the few women reporting on non-league football at the moment, I’ve been told more than once this season already that, “sorry love you can’t have a team sheet they are just for the reporters” as well have being previously asked which player I’m dating and there was even a camera phone incident which I wrote about on my blog at the time – it’s frustrating, its patronising and it still happens. While Miss Still’s appointment may have titillated some bored journalists into cobbling together some guff about how ‘sexy’ she is while wheeling out an old pic of Karen Brady for good measure to fill a gap at the tail end of ‘silly season’ it is unlikely to stop old men trying to explain the offside rule to me on match days.

You can follow Jenni Silver on Twitter by clicking here. Alternatively, you can follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter by clicking here.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • September 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Simon Cope

    We have had a female vice-chair at Scarborough Athletic FC for some time now. The fact that Wendy is female has never been an issue for any fans that I am aware of; Boro fans are far more interested in her as a person, and what she can do for the club. Like all other directors on the board, if she does a bad job she’ll be voted out at the next election. We judge our directors on their performance, not their tackle.

  • September 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm


    It makes a more interesting story when you discover the fact that Ms. Still at 29, has been the girlfriend of Chairman John Radford 45, for the past 3 months…..

    None of the massive media coverage that this story has generated knew that did they???

  • September 15, 2011 at 8:44 am


    Sorry, but putting the attention she’s received down to her being of the female persuasion is rather lazy.

    There’s been plenty of businesswomen involved in football clubs, but they don’t get the fuss, because they’re almost always middle-aged types to whom the word “fussy” can be applied.

    She’s getting the attention because she’s young, blonde and, judging by the photos that have appeared in the press, she likes to model for the cameras.

    Rather than look at everything simply from men’s point of view, how’s about crediting her with intelligence & the self-awareness to know that such a fuss would be caused? They do have minds of their own, you know.

  • September 15, 2011 at 10:32 am


    it is unlikely to stop old men trying to explain the offside rule to me on match days.

    How sweet of them!

  • September 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Paul Blackwell

    To be honest Jenni Silver I think that you are being rather naive. Having taken a look at a picture of this woman, she looks the archetype pouting aggressively glam type – orangefaced and covered in warpaint – that quite honestly just invites the sort of sexist comments that have been flying around.

  • September 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Bath City fan

    Jenni, I go onto the Gloucester COF quite a lot, partly to see how some of our ex-players are doing, and I always read your reports. It must be very frustrating for you to have to put up with so many rude men, but I can assure you that it is improving. Our own Chairmanda is a shining example, and I have recently seen a thread on I think the Chester Forum, where they reckoned that the woman ref had been the best all season, with very few sexist comments. More and more women will be in positions of authority – trouble is, one of the first was Thatcher, and she did no good at all for women! Having said all that, I am a little intrigued by Rob saying that the Mansfield CEO is the chairman’s girlfriend!

  • September 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Nathan Jones

    I’m disappointed that there isn’t a photo of Carolyn on this article so we could see just how, err, capable she is.

  • September 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Nathan Jones

    “she looks the archetype pouting aggressively glam type – orangefaced and covered in warpaint – that quite honestly just invites the sort of sexist comments that have been flying around.”

    So what you’re basically saying is that she’s “asking for it” Paul?

    Good grief.

  • September 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm


    I wasn’t hugely impressed by her first interview on the club’s website, as to me she sometimes came across as just a little false. Numerous references to “The Stags”, which is indeed the club’s nickname, but she sounded too keen to emphasise that she knew this particular fact. The comment about “the emphatic 5-0 victory on Saturday” also sounded slightly contrived to me, being better suited to a written report than a verbal interview.

    Let’s look at this can be seen as a forward-thinking move by the club, bringing in a young and enthusiastic individual to help streamline the club’s operations. This is vital – since suffering relegation from the Football League in 2008, MTFC has relied on the generosity of its Directors to maintain the club as a going concern, given that we are still effectively being run like a Football League club, but without the annual £500K revenue from Sky TV which all League Two clubs enjoy.

    I really hope that this does not turn out to be a short-term gimmick. Chairman John Radford saved Mansfield Town from almost certain Administration when he purchased the club one year ago. He has spent years building up a multi-million pound business, the One Call Insurance Group, so he clearly knows how to run a company well. I’ll continue to go along with the motto which is proudly displayed on the front of the main stand at Mansfield Town’s Field Mill ground: “In John Radford We Trust”.

  • September 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Paul Blackwell

    No Nathan I’m not saying she’s ‘asking for it’ but if she poses at the Stags’ ground in such a manner it’s hardly surprising if it gives rise to the sort of comments that have happened. I’m not excusing them, but can understand exactly why they occur. It is a completely inappropriate sort of pose for someone of whateber sex starting a job as a football club chief exec. Imagine if a guy had posed like that. Enough said. Having said that I really hope Mansfield do well. Their fans deserve it.

  • September 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Rob C

    I am intrigued by this from the Mansfield press release: “Ms Still brings a wealth of experience to her new position developed through the fashion industry where she worked alongside the Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officer in two of the world’s largest luxury goods companies, Bulgari SpA and Gucci Group.”

    “Worked alongside” is the phrase that gets my eyebrows twitching: what exactly was her role? You can be very junior but still “work alongside” some high-fliers.

    Given her age and this qualified statement, what exactly is her experience? Is she only in the post because of her alleged relationship with the club owner?

    Her appointment seems a bit suspect, and I’d be saying that regardless of her gender.

  • September 16, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Derek Truswell

    We need somebody at the side of our Chairman John Radford who can bat their eyes at our stadium owner & hopefully get him to hand back the stadia to us ( that is rightfully ours )
    … sock it to him darlin’ !!!!!

  • September 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm


    Women love to be seen as being attractive and sexy so, if anything, those journalist do that lady a favour…

  • September 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Rob C

    There is, of course, nothing wrong about hiring former prostitutes, but some people might further question the appointment: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3819610/Youngest-footie-boss-Carolyn-Still-was-an-escort.html

  • September 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Nathan Jones

    What sort of “pose” of an attractive young woman would be acceptable to you then Paul?…

  • September 19, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Paul Blackwell

    Move on Nathan

  • September 20, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Nathan Jones

    As you’re the one who finds a photo of a woman standing in a football ground a “completely inappropriate sort of pose” I suggest it might be you that needs to move on, in quite a few ways…

  • April 5, 2012 at 7:50 am

    A Bird’s Eye View: The BBC Tackles Sexism In Football | Twohundredpercent

    […] perhaps we should look at the pre-Samantha Brick outpouring when Carolyn Still was announced as CEO of Mansfield Town, it was an opportunity for muck-raking and name calling, just as there was when Jackie Oakley was […]

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