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.