A depressing reflection on the game - but give Moyes some credit, say PRs of latest football sexism storm

The sexism row enveloping football after David Moyes said he might have to give a female journalist "a slap" is "depressing" to see, according to one sports-focused PR professional, but the Sunderland manager deserves "some credit" for his swift apology, another says.

Moyes last month (Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/PA Images)
Moyes last month (Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/PA Images)

The Football Association has written to Moyes after a recording emerged of a conversation he had with the BBC's Vicki Sparks after a goalless draw against Burnley two weeks ago. "You were just getting a wee bit naughty at the end there. So just watch yourself or you might get - you still might get a slap even though you’re a woman," he said.

After it came to light over the weekend, he said yesterday that he "deeply regrets" the comment, and claimed that Sparks had accepted an apology after a private discussion.

It has led to much debate about misogyny in football, and the sport's social responsibilities. Yesterday, three sport and PR experts argued that the Premier League needed to emphasise a social purpose beyond its monetary motivations in order to 'humanise' itself, following the departure of the its longstanding comms chief.

Rachel Moule, head of consumer at sport and leisure agency Action PR, said: "Moyes clearly thought he was in the Nag's Head having a bit of 'banter' with his mates when he threatened Vicki Sparks with a slap for doing her job, he probably wondered why she wasn’t cutting up oranges, or washing the kits."

"He is yet another football manager who treats his interviewers with contempt and blames his comments on the high pressure nature of his job, for which he is more than richly remunerated. What’s more depressing than the act itself, is the response from the braying Twitter terraces that it’s 'PC gone mad', 'usual feminists frothing at the mouth again' and countless other examples of misogyny, homophobia and racism in football that a five-second search on social media highlights."

Moule said she hoped Moyes would received a "hefty fine" and be given the sack.

David Alexander, founder of Calacus PR and former football journalist, said: "With the exception of presenters on Sky Sports News, women in sports journalism still have to work far harder than their male counterparts to gain the respect and acceptance that they deserve."

"Some credit must go to Moyes for apologising to Ms Sparks swiftly and admitting his error in a press conference once the story broke, but as an ambassador of Sunderland and of the Premier League, Moyes has underlined how much work there is to be done within sport and society to stamp out sexism. The Football Association have asked Moyes for his explanation and would do well to make an example of him to uphold the values they seek to promote."

Neil Hopkins, a director at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, agreed that the league and governing body needed to give robust responses. He compared the situation to the public criticism by then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho of club doctor Eva Carneiro.

"I think if football as a sport had a reputation for being very inclusive to women, it might not be an issue for the FA or the Premier League to pick up - the fact that these things are happening from time to time, they need to take a stand - and do it quickly," he said.

He warned against the sport talking the issue lightly, saying: "A lot of people, particularly within football, will say it’s an example of 'banter', that dreadful word, but I think football has a responsibility to everyone to present a more progressive and inclusive image."

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