Anger at remarks

Sports writers body ‘sorry’ after women’s walk-out

Eilidh Barbour: felt unwelcome

An organisation representing sports writers in Scotland has apologised after a number of females walked out of an awards evening complaining they felt distressed by sexist, racist and homophobic remarks at the event.

Following their reaction, the Scottish Football Writers’ Association has pledged to review the format of its annual dinner.

Eilidh Barbour, who reports for Sky Sports News and BBC Sport, took to Twitter to say that she had “never felt so unwelcome in the industry I work in than sitting at the Scottish Football Writers Awards (SFWA).

“A huge reminder there is still so much to do in making our game an equal place #callitout #equalgame.”

Her comments did not identify the source of her discomfort but others, including Gabriella Bennett, co-chair of Women In Journalism Scotland (WIJS), complained of jokes in poor taste. The after dinner speaker was Bill Copeland, a former lawyer.

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Ms Bennett told the Daily Record: “After the first couple of jokes I leant over to the person I was there with and said, ‘I really don’t like this.’ It wasn’t even funny. Just really poor taste.

“It’s passed off as banter, or we’re told it’s only a joke, and a lot of people were laughing last night, which was disappointing.

“My table stood up to leave, and I saw Eilidh Barbour and people on her table start to leave.”

In a joint statement, anti-racism group Kick It Out and Women in Football condemned the SFWA.

They said: “We have been made aware of sexist, racist and homophobic remarks made at the Scottish Football Writers’ Awards last night, during an after-dinner speech.

“Events that celebrate talent in our game should be a time to focus on the positives and all the people who have played their part in pushing football forward.

“It should not be used as a platform to share derogatory and discriminatory comments and make groups and communities feel excluded and insulted.

“We expect better and we demand better.”


In a statement, the SFWA 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.”

A Women in Journalism Scotland spokesperson said: “Women in Journalism Scotland (WiJS) stands with all those who walked out in the middle of an offensive after-dinner speech at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association awards dinner last night.

“It is a matter of great concern to us that it is still deemed acceptable to behave and speak in such a disparaging manner towards women. This is not banter for the minority groups who are the butt of the jokes.

“Sports journalism appears to be among the last bastions of misogyny within journalism.

“In a recent survey carried out at the end of last year, WiJS discovered that of around 95 sports desk staff jobs at Scottish newspapers, just three were filled by women.

“There are no female sports editors, which shows the lack of career path available to women in this sector, especially when you consider that many of our current newspaper editors rose through the ranks via sports desks.

“Dark corners of our industry still exist, where outdated attitudes – which wouldn’t be acceptable elsewhere – are still condoned.

“Members tell us about derisory attitudes towards women who report on sport, all-male voices in morning news conferences, sexist jokes in actual and virtual rooms, an intimidating atmosphere in the football press box and more.

“Disturbingly, we also hear stories that when women are offered jobs writing about sport, it is often on lower salaries than male counterparts, with fewer promotions offered and little flexibility.

“As a result, fewer women are attracted to the sector and those who do go into it, leave because of what they find.

“It’s time to call time on the sexist shame of the beautiful game.”

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