I wrote in my previous article that the Premier League (EPL) statement on its “investigation” into what is beginning to be called “Scudgate” (sigh) posed more questions than answers. The following is what I meant (with the statement in bold):
Summary of a meeting of Premier League Clubs held on 19 May 2014. In the matter of media allegations regarding the Chief Executive.
This article will take a while. I haven’t even got to the statement itself and already there’s questions.
It was reported throughout last week that the EPL’s “Audit and Remuneration (A&R) Committee”, the body which has authorised Scudamore’s salary and bonuses down the years, was to discuss the issue. The BBC website reported on May 16th that they “will meet on Monday to consider disciplinary action against Scudamore.”
The Committee’s independence, both professional and personal, from Scudamore was subjected to considerable scrutiny over the weekend. But yesterday (Monday) it was still being reported that the A&R Committee had “emerged” on May 14th as the disciplinary body.
Yet the 17 EPL member clubs (relegated and already promoted clubs not included) “emerged” at pretty much the last minute as the actual decision-making body, despite the A&R Committee being reported as part of the EPL’s “due process” for holding Scudamore to account. If you didn’t have complete faith in the good governance of the EPL, you might think they were making it up as they went along.
So, who authorised the process the EPL have thus far followed? Why did the A&R Committee “emerge” as the decision-making body and where from? And was that ever true?
Right…the statement itself…
The Chairman of the Premier League conducted an investigation into the allegations in a newspaper last week with regard to inappropriate email correspondence involving the Chief Executive and seen by a temporary PA. This investigation was carried out in conjunction with external specialist legal advisors specifically appointed for the role.
Peter McCormick, in whose name the statement was issued, is the EPL’s acting non-executive chair, currently deputising for Anthony Fry who has been on sick leave since March. McCormick is the only EPL director who isn’t…Richard Scudamore, which is laughably ridiculous.
McCormick has been involved from the day before day one of this affair, as Scudamore reportedly “followed board procedure” in informing him, the A&R Committee chair and the clubs on Saturday May 10th that Sunday Mirror newspaper allegations were on their way. So he, presumably, “appointed” the legal advisers.
However, we don’t know who these “specialists” were, beyond reports that they are a “London law firm.” We don’t know their terms of reference, or their “specialisms” or why a matter of publicly-available, straightforward allegations needs a “specialism”? And we don’t know who they interviewed.
We do, however, know that they didn’t interview Rani Abraham, who is at the very centre of what is being investigated. Would she not be among the first interviewee in a proper investigation of the allegations?
The clubs, as the Chief Executive’s employer, considered the findings of the investigation and reached the following conclusions:
This appears to confirm that the A&R Committee were not involved in this process at all.
It is clear that this private correspondence did include some inappropriate remarks from the Chief Executive, for which he immediately apologised. The clubs agreed that such remarks should have no place in the Premier League’s working environment.
One of the Sunday Mirror allegations was that the relevant correspondence was not “private.” Indeed, the matter of their “privacy” is the subject of debate and, potentially, legal proceedings. Yet the correspondence is referred to in the statement as “private,” without qualification, or any indication that the investigation led to this conclusion. It is presented as established fact.
Another allegation is that Scudamore did not “immediately apologise.” His “immediate” response, at 10.18pm on the day before the story broke, was to email all EPL chairmen and CEOs to say: “The newspaper is asserting that some of the content is sexist and inappropriate. Tomorrow, on the assumption that they publish, you will be the judge.” You will look in vain for evidence of an immediate apology (or a “genuine and sincere” apology – see below) there, or anywhere in the Mirror story.
These emails were private communications between friends of long-standing and the temporary PA was not exposed to them in the course of her duties but had to search for them in a private email account which she was not authorised to access.
Despite “his” “investigation” taking no “evidence” from Rani Abraham (I’m running out of inverted commas here), McCormick presents her guilt of what amounts to professional misconduct as established fact
But the Sunday Mirror “(confirmed) Scudamore’s crude remarks were sent using the premierleague.com address which Rani says she did have authority to access,” strongly suggesting that they have physical evidence to that effect. What, if anything, did the investigation uncover to counter those claims?
Examination of a very large quantity of emails and other documents, including those copied without authorisation by the former employee, indicate that there is no evidence of wider discriminatory attitudes or inappropriate language or a general attitude of disrespect towards women.
It’s just Scudamore, then? After all, he has admitted “inappropriate” language” in emails in which contain a demonstrable “attitude of disrespect towards women.”
Here, McCormick makes a different accusation against Abraham, that she “copied” material “without authorisation.” Again, a little evidence of her lack of “authorisation” would be nice.
It seems unclear, and the statement’s punctuation doesn’t help, whether we are still among the “club’s conclusions” here. These allegations were not made by the Sunday Mirror. They more readily equate to a statement from FA Inclusion Advisory Board Chair Heather Rabbatts on Saturday May 17th in which she referenced “growing evidence of a closed culture of sexism (which) demeans women and seems to discourage their involvement in the game’s administration.”
The investigation’s terms of reference would clear up any confusion. But these findings do not seem relevant to any decision on Scudamore, unless the investigation uncovered direct problems with his line management of female EPL staff, which again was not alleged by the paper.
The female senior executive at the Premier League referred to in the emails was party to the exchanges and has confirmed that she was not then and is not now offended by the references.
Again, this isn’t a specific Mirror allegation. The paper merely reported that the senior executive was “copied in at least once.” So it is unclear why her attitude was investigated. And if she was questioned by investigators, why wasn’t Abraham?
Responses from many women in employment at the Premier League, and extensive consultations with others, establish that there is no climate of disrespect for women in the workplace. This is an important consideration, one that is vital to forming a view as to whether the emails in question reflect a wider problem.
This may indeed be “vital to forming a view” about reflections of a wider problem. But why were the clubs asked to “form a view” on this? Again it has nothing to do with “the matter of media allegations regarding the chief executive?” Because yet again (I’m running out of “agains” now), the issues were raised in Rabbatts’ statement, over which the clubs had no jurisdiction.
These issues are fundamentally important to the working environment at the EPL HQ in London’s Gloucester Place. They are, however, irrelevant here.
The weight of comments made by female staff, unprompted or through direct consultation, indicate that they find the Premier League an excellent place to work, they share a high level of pride in their jobs and find the working environment positive and supportive. This view is particularly strongly held by female staff with direct experience of working with or close to the Chief Executive who have made it very clear that his conduct and behaviour have been beyond reproach.
Heaven on earth, this Gloucester Place, then…although Rani Abraham didn’t appear to think so. In truth, I know nothing of the Premier League offices working environment. My only experience of workplace surveys, however, revealed that a more rounded picture of office morale came from surveying current and former members of staff.
This returns us to the question of the “specialist legal advisor’s” terms of reference and, further, why their “extensive consultations” didn’t include female staff who left the EPL over the last two years – including two personal assistants to…Richard Scudamore. Were the firm asked to fully survey the workplace, or to provide a case for the EPL’s defence?
With these findings in mind, the club’s accepted the Chief Executive’s genuine and sincere apology.
Whoa, there. Now this leapt from the page. The Sunday Mirror alleged Scudamore’s apology was not “genuine and sincere.” Yet, for the third time, a matter in clear dispute is represented as established truth. Did the investigation disprove the paper’s allegations? And would the clubs have accepted Scudamore’s apology had they known that the paper presented evidence that he was in no mood to apologise, sincerely or otherwise, at 10.18pm on the day before they published the original story?
Or were they, as one waggish commentator suggested last week, a part of the EPL equivalent of “the Crown vs. Captain Edmund Blackadder, the Flanders Pigeon Murderer”? I’ll let you be the judge.
They also accepted his undertaking to take active steps to prevent a recurrence.
I am intrigued by what these “active steps” are. The argument persists that Scudamore has undergone a cleansing of his sexist attitudes simply by dint of their publication, which is arrant nonsense. So, these active steps could be either a counselling or education programme, or better email security. Which one is more likely? I’ll let you be the judge.
The clubs re-affirmed their commitment to the Premier League policy and practice of treating all staff fairly and on merit, regardless of gender. They placed on record their support for the work led by the Chief Executive in the areas of anti-discrimination and community engagement, including the high priority given to girls’ and women’s football. In these circumstances and in the light of a previously unblemished record over 15 years of service to the Premier League, the clubs resolved unanimously that no further disciplinary action is required or justified.
The reference to no “further” disciplinary action was curious, as there hadn’t been “any” disciplinary action. However, a Twitter exchange with former Guardian newspaper journalist Matt Scott offered an unexpected insight.
I questioned Scott’s support for no “further” action: “Scudamore breaches his own organisation’s anti-discrimination policy and gets away with it. How is that defensible?” Scott noted correctly that the policy calls for “appropriate disciplinary action,” but added: “this media storm is not sufficiently chastening then?”
Now Scudamore has never struck me as the chastenable type. But he was reportedly shocked by the media “storm,” such as it was. And while Scott will have met Scudamore on his journalistic travels, I haven’t. So I wasn’t sufficiently well-informed to argue that Scudamore wasn’t chastened.
But Scott’s idea that this was “appropriate” action was…erm…” intriguing.” Given that the FA claim they have “no jurisdiction” to take action against Scudamore (after all, when it comes to Scudamore, the FA don’t even have jurisdiction over their own proverbial bladder), it seems that only the media can take such action. Like I say, “intriguing.”
I still believe the Daily Mail’s Charles Sale’s phrase: “For most other CEOs in sport, such loose-lipped talk would be an immediate resignation issue” applies precisely to Scudamore. It is a belief unshaken by Prime Minister David Cameron offering it tentative support.
But Richard Scudamore is above resigning; above the moral standards required of his leadership role; above the policies and scrutiny of his own organisation. And with the collective retreat into spineless w**kerdom by the FA and swathes of the English football press, Scudamore seems free to do as he pleases (unless like Watergate, the cover-up becomes the story). And if that doesn’t bring English football into disrepute, what does?
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