Sunday 22 April 2018

FA's only female board member faces investigation following support of Eva Carneiro

Former Chelsea team doctor Eva Carneiro was a prominent female figure in the Premier League
Former Chelsea team doctor Eva Carneiro was a prominent female figure in the Premier League

Martyn Ziegler

The decision to launch a formal investigation into the Football Association's independent board member Heather Rabbatts over her public backing of former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro has been labelled "bizarre" by the head of equality group Kick It Out.

Rabbatts has been heavily critical of the FA's handling of Carneiro's case, describing it as "seriously disappointing", and is now facing a complaint from two FA councillors for alleged breach of the FA's code of conduct. It is understood an investigation was formally started earlier on Friday.

Lord Herman Ouseley, the chairman of Kick It Out who himself resigned from the FA Council three years ago, said the FA's leadership should be supporting Rabbatts' stance.

Ouseley told Press Association Sport: "To hear that Heather Rabbatts is now being investigated for her support of Eva Carneiro is bizarre, and it shows what an antiquated body the FA Council is.

"As the only female independent board member, she is in an exposed position but she is there to provide a different voice and (serve) as a figurehead for people in the game who feel the whole system is against them.

"This is a moment when the chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke, should stand up and show support for Heather Rabbatts."

It is understood two members of the 121-strong FA council - 82-year-old life vice-president Ron Barston and 70-year-old law lecturer Richard Tur, the chairman of the Oxford University FA - have called for an investigation into Rabbatts. Tur said he was unable to comment.

Under FA rules, only two members of the council are required for a formal investigation to be launched. The ultimate sanction if any wrongdoing is found would be Rabbatts being removed from the FA board, though any such move would have to be confirmed by her fellow directors.

Rabbatts, the head of the FA's inclusion advisory board, has ruffled feathers in the organisation on a number of occasions.

In relation to the Carneiro case, she expressed "major concerns" about the FA's disciplinary process which saw Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho cleared of making discriminatory comments towards the doctor after it emerged she had not been interviewed by the FA.

The involvement of the FA councillors is also a reflection of the ongoing attempts by Dyke to modernise the governing body, and the determination of some 'blazers' to hold on to their power and privileges.

Dyke had himself told the FA council in a letter that he had supported previous strong statements by Rabbatts on the Carneiro case, and that he believed Mourinho committed "a failure of his personal judgement and public behaviour".

Rabbatts told Press Association Sport earlier in October: "The FA's reaction to the treatment of Dr Eva Carneiro has been seriously disappointing. I have major concerns over the way in which the disciplinary process has been conducted and the lack of an organisational response to the wider issues raised by this case."

Under FA statutes, the investigation has to be conducted by the FA's company secretary, Richard McDermott, who will present his findings to a panel of a minimum of three people selected from the FA board.

Carneiro left her post at Chelsea last month. It followed a decision to downgrade her responsibilities, following on from criticism by Mourinho over the way she and physio Jon Fearn conducted themselves during the Blues' opening match of the Premier League season against Swansea in August.

Press Association

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