Chelsea’s women’s team play the most important game in their history next week when they play host to two time former champions Wolfsburg in the second round first leg of the Women’s Champions League. In many ways Chelsea have a good record – by UK football standards anyway – when it comes to women. They have invested in their women’s team who have won the League and Cup double in England this year. The team has a female manager in Emma Hayes – the only female manager in Women’s Super League (WSL) 1 in 2015. While in Marina Granovskaia – owner Roman Abramovich’s right hand woman – they have one of the most powerful women in UK football.
So in theory Chelsea are a progressive club. But there is a big cloud on the horizon. The Eva Carneiro affair – which I wrote about earlier – rumbles on. Since I wrote about this affair it has been announced that not only is Carneiro taking Chelsea to an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal she is also taking individual action against manager Jose Mouriniho saying that Mouriniho victimized and discriminated against her by banishing her from the Chelsea bench back in August. This means Mouriniho would be forced to appear at an industrial tribunal in person to explain his behavior.
The only way this could be avoided is that if the two sides settled out of court. If I were Abramovich I would do anything to settle this – even sacking Mouriniho if that is what it takes. Because if this goes to an industrial tribunal this will not be good for Chelsea – or football for that matter. The reason for this is that football – and sport – lives in its own world and under its own rules. But an industrial tribunal follows the rules of society not the rules of football or sport. And history shows that in a dispite between the rules of sport and the rules of society there is only one winner – and it is not sport. (Why do you think FIFA has a rule that a club can’t take them to court?). Four examples will show what I mean.
In 1977 the Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer signed up 35 of the world’s best cricketers for his rebel World Series Cricket. The International Cricket Conference (ICC) outraged banned the players from official cricket. Packer responded by taking the ICC to court. The judge Justice Slade ruled in favour of Packer saying that the ICC by banning the players were inducing them to break their contracts with Packer which was illegal. The rules of cricket had been trumped by the rules of society.
Something similar happened to football in 1995 when Jean-Marc Bosman a journeyman Belgian player went to the European Court saying that clubs demanding fees for players out of contract plus the restrictions imposed on foreign players at the time were against European Union (EU) law. The court agreed with Bosman and both transfer fees for out of contract and restrictions were declared illegal. FIFA and UEFA still moan to this day about the Bosman ruling but they were only learning what the ICC had learned back in 1977. The rules of football had been trumped by the rules of society.
Again in 2004 the same thing happened to handball. The German Handball League were taken to the European Court by Slovak player Maros Kolpak who said that rules saying that teams were limited to two non EU players (Slovakia was not an EU member state at this time) were discriminatory. The court ruled in his favour.The handball authorities moaned but again the rules of sport had been trumped by the rules of society.
The last case is similar to the Carneiro case but in cricket. In 1998 Theresa Harrild took the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to an industrial tribunal for sex discrimination. Harrild was a receptionist at the ECB. She had an affair with – and got pregnant by – a colleague at the ECB Nick Marriner who then abandoned her. The ECB put pressure on her to have an abortion and she was given £400 to pay for the abortion which she had. When she returned to her job she suffered from depression and was eventually sacked in her own home by ECB deputy chief executive Cliff Barker who offered her more money and made a pass at her. The tribunal found in her favour partly because the ECB had such contempt for the law they did not even bother to turn up at the tribunal. But again despite the ECB’s arrogance the rules of cricket had been trumphed by the rules of society. More to the point cricket had been dragged through the gutter and been exposed as sexist and unfit for civilised society (to be fair to the ECB cricket has cleaned up its act since).
And that is why it is in football’s best interests that this never gets to the tribunal. It is highly likely that football will be dragged through the gutter be exposed as sexist and unfit for civilised society. There will be a lot of muck exposed in this case. In the interests of football there must be a settlement out of court. If that means Mouriniho has to be sacrificed for the greater good of football in my opinion so be it.