Phil Neville apologized Wednesday for misogynistic and sexist comments he made on Twitter that have overshadowed his appointment as coach of England’s women’s national soccer team and led to calls for him to be charged by the Football Association.
“I would like to clarify that they were not and are not a true and genuine reflection of either my character or beliefs,” the former Manchester United defender said of the tweets he posted in 2011 and ‘12.
Neville deleted his Twitter account - followed by 1.6 million people - soon after being announced Tuesday as the most high-profile England Women coach in the team’s 45-year history. His tweets were already out in the public domain by then.
In one post on his Twitter account, Neville wrote in 2011: “Relax, I’m back chilled- just battered the wife!!! Feel better now!”
In another in 2012, Neville - asked why women would not be watching cricket on television - responded by saying he thought they would be “busy preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making beds.”
Later that year, he tweeted that women “always wanted equality until it comes to paying the bills (hashtag)hypocrites.”
Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out said Neville’s appointment “raises more questions than answers” and questioned whether he should be charged by the FA for posting discriminatory comments on social media.
In reply, FA chief executive Martin Glenn said Neville’s comments “would not meet the threshold for issuing a charge against any participants” and that the coach would be educated on all aspects of the FA’s regulations.
In June 2017, David Moyes was fined 30,000 pounds ($38,000) for telling a reporter “you still might get a slap even though you’re a woman,” when he was manager of Sunderland. The FA said those remarks were “improper and/or threatening and/or brought the game into disrepute.”
In 2016, Watford striker Andre Gray, who played for Burnley at the time, was banned for four matches by the FA for anti-gay and racist comments he made on Twitter four years earlier.
The Women’s Sport Trust charity was also critical of Neville and the FA, saying: “In the age of MeToo and TimesUp, all individuals and organizations must be more aware of past sexist behavior and respond to it appropriately.”
British sports minister Tracey Crouch said it was “right that Phil Neville has apologized for his ill-advised, historical remarks.”
“Sexism of any kind must not be tolerated,” she added.
The Football Association was already coming under fire for recruiting the 41-year-old Neville despite his limited experience as a coach.
Since retiring as a player in 2013, Neville has had brief spells as an assistant coach with the England under-21 men’s team, United and Valencia. He has also managed one game at Salford City - the semi-professional team he co-owns with other former United players.
“Kick It Out have serious concerns over a recruitment process that has resulted in the appointment of someone with no record of management or experience in women’s football,” said Roisin Wood, its chief executive, “and are making representations to the FA to ensure the governing body is transparent and accountable for their decision.”
Glenn said the FA turned to Neville after four candidates on the final shortlist - two of them female - withdrew from the selection process. Two of the four pulled out when told they would be undergoing background checks.
“I have personally been impressed by Phil’s determination, his integrity and values that came through strongly in his background checks and references,” Glenn said. “It has, I believe, been rigorous and fair.”
Glenn said not all of Neville’s controversial historic comments on social media came to light during background vetting, and that the FA only became aware of them through the media.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
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