'Sweaty-gate' agency Fuel PR expelled from PRCA

Fuel PR, the agency at the centre of the so-called 'Sweaty-gate' scandal, has had its membership of the PRCA rescinded for misconduct, and its managing director has lost her fellowship.

The agency was found to have breached the PRCA’s professional charter after PRWeek discovered that the subject of one of its 'real life' features was in fact an employee of a PR firm representing the product it endorsed.

The Press Association, which distributed the feature, was forced to apologise and refund a number of national newspapers that used it, following PRWeek's story on the issue.

The PRCA’s Professional Practices Committee met last month to consider a complaint made by Adrian Wheeler FPRCA against the agency.

The committee decided unanimously that Fuel PR was in clear breach of its professional standards and that the gravity of the reputational damage to the industry was so great that "termination of membership was the only option", according to a PRCA statement.

It is the first expulsion from the PRCA in a decade.

The committee also found that it would be "inappropriate" for Fuel PR’s managing director, Gillian Waddell, to remain as a Fellow of the PRCA and stripped her of the honour.

It concluded that the agency would not be able to reapply for membership of the PRCA for at least five years.

The PRCA said it had given Fuel PR two weeks to appeal its decisions, but no such appeal had been received.

Francis Ingham, PRCA director general, said: "It is with great sadness that the PRCA has taken this decision – the first expulsion since I became director general in 2007. However, no person or organisation is above the Code: it is the bedrock of our industry's professionalism."

Waddell told PRWeek: "We have not been members of the PRCA for months."

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