IAN LADYMAN: Sneering view of women is a big problem for football

IAN LADYMAN: Sneering view of women is still a big problem for football… so while it shows its support to a vital anti-racism movement this week, it shouldn’t pat itself on the back too hard just yet

  • Football wants to talk about race in support of the Black Lives Matter movement
  • Hopefully this in turn will lead to wider conversations about other issues
  • Issues like homophobia and the way football and its players look upon women
  • Everton and Newcastle are under particular financial pressure at the moment
  • Gareth Southgate has made many look foolish for his superb work with England

One of Brian Clough’s less admirable career episodes concerned his dealings with the centre forward Justin Fashanu. By his own admission, the former Nottingham Forest manager called Fashanu out for being gay. In his autobiography, he describes him as a ‘poof’.

We will not be tearing down the statue of Clough that stands in Nottingham city centre and nor should we. Clough was an epoch-defining manager and we must learn as much from what he did wrong as from what he did right.

Football has moved on and continues to move forwards.

Sky Sports’ Laura Woods spoke of the sneering innuendo that has accompanied her progress

It continues to progress too slowly in some areas but, as the swell of player support for the Black Lives Matter movement has shown, there is a will at the very least and that is never a bad starting point.

John Barnes is an interesting case here. The former Liverpool winger talked at length on social media last week about the way he feels he was discriminated against as a black manager at Celtic and Tranmere.

As a player in the 1980s and 1990s he was not voluble on the subject despite the racism he met on and off the pitch. Age and experience has given him a platform to speak now but so too has a change in the environment.

Football wants to talk about race now and we can only hope that this, in turn, leads to wider and more detailed conversations about issues such as homophobia and indeed the way football and its players look upon women.

Football likes to describe itself as a more inclusive sport these days. To a degree it is. More women watch the game and more women work in the game. Deep inside dressing rooms, however, attitudes still lack refinement.

For example, it is not unheard of for player Christmas parties to feature groups of young women invited to the venue.

Last Christmas, Manchester City’s bash at a golf and country club in Cheshire took place in the absence of wives and girlfriends but featured 20 ‘Instagram models’, many of whom were flown in from abroad. It is hard to think of another industry in which such a thing would happen but in football this is commonplace.

Women in sport continue to face unacceptable barriers to progression and this must change 

Women working close to clubs often have their own stories to tell. The experiences tend to fluctuate from the mildly uncomfortable to the deeply unpleasant.

Player support staff, meanwhile, have many tales of extricating players and even coaching staff from entanglements with the opposite sex. Signatures on the bottom of non-disclosure agreements are not uncommon.

All of this is rarely talked about in football. It is seen as ‘part of the game’ when really it should not be. The radio presenter Laura Woods spoke recently of the sneering innuendo that has accompanied her progress up the career ladder.

‘If I interview someone, there will be a question on Twitter intimating I have had sex with them,’ Woods told The Mail on Sunday. ‘It is like a jab in the guts. It’s hideous.’ Women in sport continue to face unacceptable barriers to progression and this is not helped by the fact those who play it often fail to set the necessary example.

So, as football shows its support to a vital anti-racism movement with slogans on their shirts this week, it should not pat itself on the back too hard.

There are other groups feeling marginalised too.


Gianni Infantino is football’s version of elevator music for the Covid-19 crisis, only with less depth.

In the FIFA president’s latest droning declaration, he says too much football is being played and that the game needs to restructure its finances.

So we wait for him to drop his obsession with expanding the World Cup to 48 teams. And we wait for him to cancel FIFA’s block booking of Qatar’s most expensive hotels for December 2022.

And we wait and we wait and we wait.


Some Premier League recruitment departments are looking at two clubs closely ahead of the transfer window. They are Everton and Newcastle.

Both clubs are thought to be under particular financial pressure as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Everton’s players have taken wage cuts while Newcastle have furloughed non-playing staff.

So the vultures circle as it becomes clear the Premier League will be far from a level playing field when it returns. And this goes at the top end too.

Everton and Newcastle are believed to be under particular financial pressure at the moment

Liverpool’s decision to withdraw from the Timo Werner transfer may well be connected to their own decision — hastily reversed — to place staff on furlough at the start of the crisis.

Can they be seen to spend heavily on players so soon after suggesting they could not afford to pay basic salaries?

Manchester City, meanwhile, may face their own recruitment challenges if their Champions League ban is not overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Opportunity knocks then for two clubs who have fallen off the pace recently. If Manchester United and Chelsea do not make up lost ground through shrewd player investment this summer then when will they?


I once argued Gareth Southgate should not get the England job and he has spent the following three and half years making me — and several other people — look foolish.

Southgate has shown himself to be a clear-minded, decisive coach but, more than that, he has proved the perfect figurehead for a sport that needs intelligent guidance more than ever.

We are now in a position where it is actually hard to imagine anybody else doing the job.

It is tricky to remember the last time we were able to say that.

Gareth Southgate is making many of us look foolish following the superb work he has done

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