Lucy Ward, once Leeds United’s academy welfare officer, was sacked by the club last July and today was the first day of her employment tribunal against the club report the Mail Online.
After 17 years service at Elland Road, her service was terminated with the excuse given that she had taken too much time off from the club on BBC commentating duties on the Women’s World Cup.
The tribunal itself heard evidence from businessman Ismail Ghandour, who had met with Leeds’ owner Massimo Cellino, and what he presented casts doubt on the ‘official’ reason given at the time.
Ghandour says that he had met Adam Pearson, Leeds’ ex executive director, over possible investment in the club around June 23 last year, asking about the rumours of Ward being the next to leave the club. According to Ghandour’s testimony, he said that “Adam Pearson said that Mr Cellino sees them as a pair.”
The tribunal also heard some of the background behind Ward’s suspension with her office locks being changed on her office doors without her knowledge in May 2015, two months before her suspension. The suspension itself, what Ward terms as “bewildering for me having been a commited member of staff,” came just five minutes after then-Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn, Ward’s partner of seven years, was placed on ‘gardening leave’ by the club.
Ward told the tribunal that during her disciplinary hearing at the club with Adam Pearson, she asked him why it was only her being spoken to about annual leave. The Mail Online report that Ward said: “Plenty of times during the disciplinary hearing I asked why he was speaking to me and not any other members of staff. He said he wasn’t interested in anyone else, just me.”
Ward commented further into some of the alleged workings against her, especially the changing of the office locks, saying that collegagues had been warned against letting her know what was happening. On this, Ward said: “The person who I shared my office with told me that the locks on my office door had been changed. She told me that she had been told under no circumstances was she to tell me that the locks had been changed in my office.”
The tribunal itself continues hearing evidence tomorrow.