Media uproar at footy dinner ban on women

Douglas-Home: red-carded writers

The Scottish Football Writers Association’s continued ban on women guests attending its annual dinner has caused a media uproar north of the border and provoked a severe backlash.

Tennent Caledonian Breweries has threatened to pull out of a £20,000-ayear sponsorship of the dinner and other SFWA events if the ban is not lifted next year.

Herald editor Mark Douglas-Home has red-carded his sportswriters from taking an official table, including staffman Ian Paul and chief football writer Ewing Grahame – who are respectively president and treasurer of the SFWA – chief sportswriter Graham Spiers, Darryl Broadfoot and Rob Robertson.

And the NUJ has joined the Equal Opportunities Commission in calling for the SFWA to revise rules which allow female journalists to become members but prevent women being invited as guests to the event.

It is also understood that a female executive on the Scottish Daily Record has demanded an inquiry into the issue. The latest public row blew up after the association voted 21 to 20 in secret at its annual general meeting to continue the ban at the dinner, which is held in Glasgow each May.

The attack on the association was led by The Herald’s Spiers, an SFWA member, in a diary splash with the heading “Prehistoric football writers are buried in a slagheap of hypocrisy”.

Spiers reported that the SFWA was “angered and outraged” that its private meeting “was leaked anonymously to the press”. He added: “We are reporters whose professional vocation is to prise private information from the public domain. Yet when that same principle is applied to ourselves, suddenly it becomes something disgusting and even outrageous.”

A spokesman for Tennent Caledonian said: “We will observe our contract for 2004 but we have made it perfectly clear that unless there is a change of policy after that we will discontinue our sponsorship.”

Douglas-Home laid it on the line to his sportswriters in a confidential memo. “I cannot stop anyone attending who is paying for themselves but I would not wish you to attend the dinner in any capacity representing The Herald.

“It is not sustainable for The Herald to support this event when our editorial ethos is to agree for a modern, inclusive Scotland where no doors are closed because of gender, race or age.”

By Hamish Mackay

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