Phil Neville sexist comments are disgraceful - but the FA is the real villain

Phil Neville made jokes about wife-beating and gender inequality

Phil Neville is in the firing line after a string of sexist tweets came to light earlier this week

Friday, January 26, 2018

I read a very depressing sentence this week - that the FA is going to put the new England womens’ football manager through a programme of education about his adventures in social media. The phrase shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted leaps to mind.

I don’t know Phil Neville - colleagues at talkSPORT towers tell me he is a good bloke and since they’ve actually met him and spent time with him in person I will take their word for it.

But whether the former Manchester United player is a good bloke or a complete tube (to borrow an Alan Brazilism) is really beside the point.

My frustration - and that of many women in the game - is with the FA themselves who seem to be living up to the Einstein theory of insanity and repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Baroness Campbell has stated the FA couldn’t find any strong women candidates around Europe, and they spoke to 147 in 30 countries. She says many of the women were nervous about the scrutiny they might get from the British media.

One of the reasons the media dig with such glee into peoples’ backgrounds (if you can call looking at someone’s twitter history “digging") is because there is a total lack of faith that the FA has done the job properly before putting someone into the spotlight.

Stop shooting the messenger - that’s not the problem here. Do the research properly yourselves and then prepare people properly if there are issues that need to be addressed.

Let’s take on face value their argument that they couldn’t find any suitably qualified women coaches prepared to take on the job. Anna Kessel from Women in Football points out that the job description for the post talked of an outstanding candidate with a proven track record of success. On that basis Phil Neville is not suitably qualified either, and that’s just on his managerial record - before we even take into account what his social media account revealed about his sense of  humour.

I am well aware there are some who think his comments were meant in jest - just “banter”. But there’s nothing funny about asking a group of elite women athletes to feel comfortable turning out for a morning coaching session with someone who thought they ought to be “preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making the beds."

We have to stop dismissing these comments as banter and harmless jokes – if they are so harmless why has Neville deleted his twitter account and the FA agreed it needs to educate him?

This is not about “political correctness", this is about a value that is supposed to be at the very core of football – treat people with respect regardless of their race, gender and choice of who they love.

Sandy Warr is one of Britain's top newscasters through her work with talkSPORT and talkRADIO.

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