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Module 5: The Fight for Gender Equality - Football on Trial (in partnership with Women in Football)

Posted on 21 June 2022

During our final session, we put football on trial for failing to promote the development of women’s football and the full participation of women at all levels of football governance in breach of the FIFA Statutes.

The charges were brought, and football was defended, by an all-women team of legal experts including Marlena Valles (Blackstone Chambers), Jane Mulcahy QC (Blackstone Chambers), Kate Gallafent QC (Blackstone Chambers), Carola Binney (4 New Square) and expert witnesses including Jacqui Oatley MBE and Moya Dodd (Partner - Gilbert + Tobin). Dame Heather Rabbatts DBE was our presiding judge.

The jury was comprised of 12 selected participants of the 2021/22 Sports Law Academy cohort who were tasked with determining the outcome of the criminal trial.

Mishcon de Reya
It’s business.  But it’s personal.
Sports Law Academy 21/22
Module 5: The Fight for Gender Equality – Football on Trial

Marlena Valles (Blackstone Chambers), Jane Mulcahy QC (Blackstone Chambers), Kate Gallafent QC (Blackstone Chambers), Carola Binney (4 New Square) and expert witnesses including Jacqui Oatley MBE and Moya Dodd (Partner - Gilbert + Tobin). Dame Heather Rabbatts DBE was our presiding judge.

Tom Murrey, Managing Associate, Mishcon de Reya

The Crown Court of Mishcon de Reya is now in session.
Simon Leaf, Partner, Mishcon de Reya

I just want to say a very warm welcome to Mishcon and thank you for joining us for the final module and grand finale of this season’s Sports Law Academy.

Tom Murrey, Managing Associate, Mishcon de Reya

Tonight’s event is all about putting football on trial for failing to promote women to senior leadership positions in the game and failing to promote the women’s game.
Simon Leaf, Partner, Mishcon de Reya

So we are absolutely delighted to be hosting the event tonight in conjunction with Women in Football.  We are one of Women in Football’s main partners and we’ve been supporting them for a number of years.

Barrister

Even at the top flight in England there remains stark failings in relation to facilities and the commitment to the culture of women’s football.  Manchester United didn’t even have a senior women’s team between 2005 and 2018 and the obvious question arises, if the big clubs aren’t getting it right and leading from the front, how are the smaller teams going to succeed. 

Lisa Parfitt, Director, Women In Football
Mishcon have been a fantastic partner of Women in Football for some time now providing really important pro bono legal support to the organisation, it’s sadly a reality still that women within the football industry face discrimination and issues within the workplace and Mishcon have provided absolutely essential support to enable women to be able to come and get advice. 

Barrister

Article 2F as you will see on the charge sheet requires the sport to promote the development of women in football.  The key words ladies and gentlemen are ‘promote’ and ‘development’.  In hearing the evidence today you must bear in mind that football’s obligation is to move things in the right direction, it is not to have completed the journey already.

Dame Heather Rabbatts DBE, Solicitor, Businesswoman and Broadcaster
What has been increasingly apparent actually has been the growth across all of sport on the profile of women’s sport and women’s football has been really at the head of that momentum of increasing interest and therefore it is hugely important that for the game to develop it is supported both by the associations and by the clubs to ensure that there is investment and support so that women’s football gets to its rightful place of parity.

Moya Dodd, Partner, Gilbert + Tobin

We are now starting to see women take their place at the full professional level which means they are more visible and role models to others who might want to play but more importantly they are role models to the rest of society.

Jaqui Oatley MBE, Broadcaster

There have been a number of teams in the late 1890s so clearly the interest was there from a long, long time ago and as we heard about Dick Kerr’s ladies, it really peaked in the early years around 1920 with that game at Goodison Park so clearly the interest was there, players wanted to play and just a year later when the ban came along with it being deemed quite unsuitable for ladies, particularly the Dick Kerr’s ladies, then women weren’t allowed to play on FA affiliated pitches with FA referees and of course the game was set back hugely for fifty years and the women’s FA was founded in 1969 and just a couple of years later the ban was overturned.  Now can you imagine if men’s football had been banned for fifty years until 1971 we wouldn’t have all the England heroes in the 1966 world cup and neither would we, I would suggest have the premier league today.

It was fantastic to see what they are doing here at Mishcon and giving lawyers and up and coming people in the legal profession an opportunity to see how a trial would work in this particular subject and I think people seem to enjoy the fun side of it because we didn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Lisa Parfitt, Director, Women In Football

It was brilliant to see both sides of the argument, a brilliant discussion and a really important discussion to be had and to continue to have to ensure that women’s football continues to be promoted and women’s inclusion in the game more broadly on the field and off the field remains absolutely top of the agenda for football globally.

Simon Leaf, Partner, Mishcon de Reya

We are trying to raise industry standards and attract people to the law that otherwise wouldn’t have been interested in, in learning more about becoming lawyers and we are really trying to get them engaged in law with an area that really kind of interests a lot of people in sports and we are doing that by examining contemporary sports or issues.

Tom Murrey, Managing Associate, Mishcon de Reya

Our goal as part of the Sports Law Academy is to facilitate debate of the key legal issues in sports, to nurture young talent and to promote diversity to encourage as many people as possible to attend, it’s free to access, it’s available online and please do look out for updates for the next Sports Law Academy series next year.

Sports Law Academy 21/22
Module 5: The Fight for Gender Equality – Football on Trial

Mishcon de Reya

It’s business.  But it’s personal.


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