Premier League Cheif Executive Richard Scudamore looks on as Vincent Kompany of Manchester City celebrates with his team-mates after the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium on May 11, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Alex Livesey/Getty)
DLA Piper will not punish one of its London-based partners whose name surfaced in connection with a series of sexist emails sent and received by the chief executive of the U.K.’s top soccer league, a DLA client, The Am Law Daily has learned.
The decision concludes an inquiry launched by the firm into the behavior of sports lawyer Nicholas West after it was revealed that he had made sexist jokes and lewd comments about women in email exchanges with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.
In one of the emails, which were leaked to U.K. tabloid the Sunday Mirror by Scudamore’s former personal assistant, Rani Abraham, West wrote that he had “spent all day fending [Premier League planning and projects director Peta Bistany, whom the pair referred to as “Edna”] off my graphite shaft.”
West, whose biography on the DLA website appears to have been scrubbed of all information, also referred elsewhere to women as “gash” and “big-titted broads.”
A DLA spokesman told The Am Law Daily on Tuesday that while the firm had determined that West’s actions represented “a failure to meet the high professional standards in which we take pride,” no further action will be taken.
“We have accepted Mr. West’s assurances that these emails are not reflective of his beliefs and values and that there will be no recurrence of this behavior,” the firm said in a statement.
West released a statement of his own in which he “sincerely apologize[d]” for his actions and admitted that he had “ let myself, my firm and its clients down.”
“I have an obligation to uphold the highest professional standards and I give my assurance that this will be the case going forward,” he added.
Scudamore has also escaped repercussions over the affair. A 54-year-old married father of five, he had faced pressure to resign from the post he has held since 1999. Edward Lord, a member of the Football Association’s inclusion advisory board, had described his position as “untenable.”
However, in a move that has drawn widespread criticism from politicians, advocacy groups and the wider public, the Premier League has decided not to take any disciplinary action against Scudamore.
Following a specially convened meeting of all 17 current Premier League clubs on May 19, acting Premier League chairman Peter McCormick released a statement admitting that Scudamore’s emails “did include some inappropriate remarks.” He added that the emails in question were “private communications between friends,” however, and said that there was “no evidence of wider discriminatory attitudes or inappropriate language or a general attitude of disrespect to women.” As such, McCormick said the clubs had “accepted the chief executive’s genuine and sincere apology” and unanimously decided that “no further disciplinary action is required or justified.”
The case had been due to go before the Premier League’s audit and remuneration committee, which is chaired by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s European partner in charge, Bruce Buck, who is also chairman of Chelsea Football Club. A Premier League spokesman told The Am Law Daily that the audit and remuneration committee was planning to discuss the matter during its regular meeting on Monday and would then have recommended a solution to clubs at a scheduled shareholders meeting in June, but because the event was “deemed urgent,” an extraordinary meeting of the clubs was called instead.
Abraham, a former law student, dismissed the probe as a “whitewash,” adding that she was not interviewed as part of the investigation.
Ruth Holdaway, the chief executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation—an organization that promotes opportunities for women in sport—said during an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live that she was “incredibly surprised and quite shocked” that Scudamore had escaped punishment.
“The language that was used in the email exchange is disrespectful toward women, and I know lots of women, including myself, who are offended by it,” she said.
Scudamore, whose salary as chief of the Premier League reportedly exceeds 1 million pounds ($1.7 million) per year, before bonuses, released a statement on Monday apologizing for his actions.
“Entering into email exchanges of this nature was wrong, and the apology I have made is sincere, as is the contrition I feel,” he said. “These exchanges do not reflect my views toward women in football, the workplace or in general. It is something that will never be repeated.”