The FA is right to charge David Moyes over his comments - sexist or not

David Moyes, Sunderland manager
David Moyes, Sunderland manager Credit: Lee Smith 

Picture the scene. You’re at work. In a professional environment, getting on with your job. You ask someone - a man - a tricky question. He answers testily and then adds, “just watch yourself. You still might get a slap even though you’re a woman."

You’d be marching straight to human resources, or Googling how to deal with workplace bullying, right?

Now imagine that exchange happened to your sister, friend, daughter, girlfriend, wife, mum. You’d be fuming on their behalf, and rightly so.

So why on earth are we still defending David Moyes?

Earlier this month, it emerged that the Sunderland manager made those comments to BBC reporter Vicki Sparks.

Why wait until after the interview to display your sparkling sense of humour, David?

They came after an interview, in which Moyes was asked by Sparks if the presence of Sunderland's owner Ellis Short at a match against premiership rivals Watford had put him under extra pressure.

He replied "no" but, in comments recorded after the interview, he added: “It was getting a wee bit naughty at the end there so just watch yourself. You still might get a slap even though you’re a woman…. Careful the next time you come in.”

The 54-year-old football boss has since apologised and said that he “regrets” the incident, which took place on March 18. But that hasn’t stopped the Football Association (FA) from charging him, alleging that the remarks were “improper and/or threatening and/or brought the game into disrepute”.

The decision to charge Moyes has angered many fans. Social media sites are awash with people defending him: “but it was just a joke!” Indeed, that’s the same argument that Talk Radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer put to me this morning on air.

Yet to dismiss Moyes’s comments as banter, is to miss the point.

This video content is no longer available
To watch The Telegraph's latest video content please visit

Hartley-Brewer asked me whether there would be the same level of outrage had Moyes made the same comment to a man. The real question, I think, is whether he would have. Personally, I find it hard to imagine that he would’ve called a male reporter “naughty”.

The fact that the remarks were made after the official interview had ended (but the recording equipment was still on) also speaks volumes. Surely, were this just an innocent joke, Moyes would have had few qualms about making it on air. Why wait until after the interview to display your sparkling sense of humour, David?

Whether you want to label Moyes’s comments as ‘sexist’ or not, is almost irrelevant. Simply, this was a man making a threat of violence towards a woman in a professional setting. At work. Is that the sort of thing any of us wants to accept in the 21st century workplace?

You might have thought football managers would be mindful of their language, in the wake of Eva Carneiro’s unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination tribunal against Chelsea FC.

At the moment, the message clear: women aren't welcome in the beautiful game

The former club doctor took the club to court after being axed following an incident where she (rightly) ran onto the pitch to treat an injured player. Then-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho lost his temper, said that she didn't “understand the game” and promptly dismissed her - something for which the club has now apologised and paid out, reportedly to the tune of £5 million.

We live in a nation where football is a religion. If we let its idols get away with treating women without respect, we send a message to young fans that it is acceptable. Desirable, even. We risk threats of casual violence becoming the norm. In a country where two women are killed by a partner or former partner each week, and where violent knife crime is on the rise, this is surely something of an own goal.

In a recent Women in Football survey, 62 per cent of women in the sport said that they had experienced 'sexist banter' and almost half had encountered sexism.

The message is clear: women aren't welcome in the beautiful game. It's up to those at the top of the sport to change that and it's why the FA is right to slap Moyes with charges. Let’s hope he scrubs that word from his vocabulary, sharpish.