The UK sports minister has condemned Joey Barton’s comments about women’s football commentators as “dangerous” and has promised to intervene with social media platforms.
Barton’s misogynistic attacks against women have included calling ITV pundits Eni Aluko and Lucy Ward “the Fred and Rose West of football”, accusing unnamed commentators of violating marriages and “what you got from pillow talk” to get ahead, and saying women “aren’t qualified” to talk about the game.
Speaking to the culture, media and sport select committee, Stuart Andrew said the government “condemned” Barton’s remarks – and was looking into ways it could take action.
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“These are dangerous comments that open the floodgates for abuse and that’s not acceptable,” he said. But I’m always slightly wary in these situations that these sorts of people want the oxygen and I don’t want to fuel that.”
“I want to put on record the amazing contribution that women and girls make to football and sport more generally in this country,” he added. “The opportunities for young people to play football at weekends would not exist if it wasn’t for the fact that we had so many volunteers, many of whom are women. So I condemn it.”
Andrew also promised that he would write to X, formerly Twitter, along with the technology company Meta – which Julie Elliot MP said would be hosting Barton’s new show, Common Sense With Joey Barton, next month.
The sports minister indicated that Ofcom could also potentially intervene, adding: “The Online Safety Act puts an obligation on Ofcom to bring about guidance. So we’re waiting for that.”
Elsewhere, Andrew also revealed that the government would be hosting another roundtable with sports to discuss their transgender policies “very shortly”, and said that the Football Association had been “a bit slow” in coming up with new guidelines.
Asked what his message would be to the FA, Andrew replied: “The government’s view is very much that fairness and safety are the priority. And they have to be the focus as they develop those policies.
“It is for each sport to develop their own policies because each sport is very different and the impacts will be very different,” he added. “But that’s why we want to have this roundtable with them to see what progress is being made and hold them to account.
“But I’m really keen that, whatever discussions we have, the temperature in the language is right. We are also talking about individuals here.”
Andrew also indicated that the government was closely monitoring the Football Association’s decision to look into the death of Sheffield United player Maddy Cusack.
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Cusack’s family is understood to have written to United outlining a range of issues she had been facing, which they said all stemmed from her relationship with the club’s manager, Jonathan Morgan.
United commissioned a third-party investigation following the complaint, which concluded last year with no evidence found of any wrongdoing by anyone connected to the club.
“My understanding is that the FA are going to review the evidence that was gathered by the club themselves and I think that that is right,” said Andrew. “We have to have a spotlight on these issues if we’re going to address them properly.”