A Scottish former criminal barrister has been dropped as an after-dinner speaker after he allegedly made a series of ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ jokes at a football awards ceremony that honoured Sir Alex Ferguson.
Bill Copeland is accused of making ‘sickening’ remarks about women, homosexuality and Japanese footballers at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association (SFWA) awards in Glasgow last night.
Guests present claimed that the lawyer had used the word ‘p**f’ while joking about his own father being homophobic. They also told The Telegraph that he used the word ‘N*p’, allegedly in connection with Celtic signing three Japanese players in January.
BBC Sport presenter Eilidh Barbour and Women in Journalism Scotland co-chair Gabriella Bennett both led a protest walkout at yesterday’s event and tweeted about the event without naming Mr Copeland.
Following a Twitter backlash, a representative for Mr Copeland and the SFWA both apologised for any offence caused – and the ex-lawyer was dropped as an after-dinner speaker by his agency.
Kick It Out and Women In Football released a joint statement condemning the remarks, saying the SFWA awards night ‘should not be used as a platform to share derogatory and discriminatory comments and make those groups and communities feel excluded and insulted’.
Ms Barbour tweeted: ‘Never felt so unwelcome in the industry I work in than sitting at the Scottish Football Writers Awards.
‘A huge reminder there is still so much to do in making our game an equal place #callitout #equalgame’.
Replying on Twitter, Ms Bennett added: ‘I was at these awards tonight and sat through the same sexist and racist jokes made by a keynote speaker. My table walked out at the same time Eilidh’s did’.
Bill Copeland, a Scottish criminal barrister-turned after-dinner speaker, is accused of making allegedly ‘sickening’ remarks about women, homosexuality and the Japanese
Eilidh Barbour pictured reporting for STV Scottish Television
BBC presenter Eilidh Barbour tweeted: ‘Never felt so unwelcome in the industry I work in than sitting at the Scottish Football Writers Awards. A huge reminder there is still so much to do in making our game an equal place #callitout #equalgame’
Women in Journalism Scotland co-chair Gabriella Bennett added: ‘I was at these awards tonight and sat through the same sexist and racist jokes made by a keynote speaker. My table walked out at the same time Eilidh’s did’
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland today, Mr Bennet said she was ‘sickened’ by Mr Copeland’s remarks.
She said: ‘I really enjoy it as an event, but there are always off-colour jokes made by the speakers… sexist or misogynistic.
‘But last night’s speech was really next-level. I walked out after about five minutes of maybe a 20-minute speech. My table stood up to leave, and I saw Eilidh Barbour and people on her table start to leave. But there were loads of people laughing at these jokes.
‘We were two tables in an enormous room and lots of people found it really funny, so there’s lots of work that we still need to do in really changing people’s minds about what’s acceptable.
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‘I’m no longer shocked or surprised by these kind of offensive remarks masquerading as banter… but I am sickened – by normalising this kind of thing, by minimising these kind of remarks… it’s incredibly insidious.
‘It’s really damaging for women trying to be respected. It allows men to speak to women in a certain way in a professional situation.’
In a statement, the SFWA said: ‘The Scottish Football Writers’ Association apologises to anyone offended or upset by material from one of our after-dinner speakers at last night’s annual awards dinner.
‘We have agreed unanimously that this will act as a catalyst to review and improve the format of our future events to make it an enjoyable and inspirational event for all.’
Former Scotland international Leanne Crichton, who was at the dinner, told the BBC she left the event feeling ‘disheartened’.
‘There’s still a long way to go and I think last night was a stark reminder of that,’ she added.
In a joint statement, Kick It Out and Women In Football said: ‘We have been made aware of sexist, racist and homophobic remarks made at the Scottish Football Writers’ Awards last night, during an after-dinner speech.
‘Women face sexism and misogyny in society, and this is often exacerbated when they play a role in football and other sports – whether they’re a player, a pundit or a fan. That must change.
‘Racism and homophobia continue to be a stain on the game, and we must continue to challenge it and eradicate it. There is no place for any form of discrimination, in sport or anywhere else.
‘Events that celebrate talent in our game should be a time to focus on the positives and all the people who have played their part in pushing football forward.
‘It should not be used as a platform to share derogatory and discriminatory comments and make groups and communities feel excluded and insulted. We expect better and we demand better.
‘The fact we have been made aware by those in attendance that they felt unwelcome in an industry they work in is unacceptable, and we stand with them.
‘We acknowledge the apology issued by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association and look forward to their promised review of future events. In the meantime we will be reaching out to understand the full details and offer our support to those affected.’
Ex-Manchester United and Aberdeen manager Sir Alex was among the attendees at the ceremony in Glasgow, at which he collected the SFWA’s Lifetime Achievement award.
MailOnline has also contacted Ms Barbour, Ms Bennett and the SFWA for further comment.
It is not the first football awards ceremony to have been engulfed by sexism and racism storms.
At a PFA dinner in 1997, football agent Rachel Anderson was banned from attending what was then a men-only event.
After being refused entry on the night of the ceremony, she duly took the PFA to court and won.
At the same dinner in 2013, black comedian Reginald D Hunter repeatedly used the N-word and made jokes about Jews and women. Then-PFA chairman Clark Carlisle admitted afterwards that he and his colleagues had made a ‘gross error of judgment’ in booking Hunter.
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