Lucy Ward, ex-Leeds United Education and Welfare officer of 11 years standing, was successful in her tribunal claim in Leeds this week, the decision going overwhlemingly in her favour.
Ward had taken the club to an employment tribunal on the grounds of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination, both strands of her case being found in her favour. The club itself, with all the trials and tribulations of the case came out of it looking decidedly grubby.
The chairman of the tribunal, as reported in the Yorkshire Post (YP) went as far as to say about the club: “We conclude that this dismissal was unfair and that there was a gross unreasonable breach of the ACAS code of conduct. We find it extraordinary that this respondent (Leeds United) had no awareness of the ACAS code or what it contained and that it failed to comply with what are regarded as basic principles.”
However, one thing that came out in the open was a remark that Leeds’ owner Massimo Cellino is alleged to have said to Gary Cooper, manager of Leeds United Ladies football team. Speaking to Cooper, and reported in the YP, Cellino was reported to have said: “Why do women want to play football? Football is no place for women. They should be in the bedroom or beauticians.”
This sexist remark was reported to Lucy Ward when it was understood that she was pursuing this stance against Leeds United. In regard to this matter, legal representative, Nicholas Randall QC said of Cellino, who didn’t give evidence at the tribunal: “Mr Cellino is not here even though we know the principle allegation relates to him. It is quite clear that Lucy Ward was making other comments about his sexist attitude. You must presume that Mr Cellino would give damning evidence about his own attitudes.”
However, in another twist, Leeds United have just released a statement on the club website refuting that such a conversation took place and dismissing it as “hearsay”. The full statement is as follows:
“At an employment tribunal this week regarding a former Leeds United employee, the tribunal chairman wilfully chose to publish to the attending press hearsay evidence of an alleged conversation between Mr Cellino and a third party, in which sexist remarks were alleged to have been made by Mr Cellino. Mr Cellino was not in court, nor was he a party in the case.
However, Mr Cellino categorically denies making the statement, which has since dominated the media coverage of the hearing, and would like to make it clear that such a statement does not represent his views of women in football whatsoever.
This is exemplified by the fact that Mr Cellino, during his time as owner of Italian club Cagliari Calcio, was the owner of two highly successful female football teams in Florida, USA, for over 10 years.
Furthermore, Mr Cellino currently operates an employment policy at Leeds United where females make up the majority of the club’s long-serving senior management staff.
It is also worth noting that Mr Cellino appointed a female barrister to defend Leeds United Football Club at this week’s hearing.
Mr Cellino is horrified and disgusted that the witness statement was made public to portray him in a light entirely detached from the truth.”