Melanie McDonagh

Is Richard Scudamore allowed private opinions? Apparently not.

Is Richard Scudamore allowed private opinions? Apparently not.
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There is, you know, quite a bit to be said for having a personal email account for getting stuff off your chest, such as comparing a former girlfriend to a double-decker (don’t ask) and talking about big-titted broads. Any work inbox that your secretary automatically is privy to is, well, not quite the same as one that’s all yours. I’ve taken soundings on this sensitive subject from a friend of mine who is a really good PA, mixes with the mighty and all the rest of it, and she tells me that it’s actually difficult to do the job from her point of view if you don’t have access to the boss’s messages; you need to know what’s going on to keep on top of things. And I suppose it’s a bit tricky if you’re the boss and in touch with an old friend, to switch back and forth between personal and work email accounts, one for business, the other for rudery.

What I’m trying to say is that Richard Scudamore, head of the Premier League, who has been fighting to keep his job since his secretary made his problematic emails public,  should probably have had an eye to the fact that she would be reading his messages when he sent them – so should have kept them clean – but, all the same, he’s entitled to have private correspondence and, come to that, bad thoughts.  As my PA friend remarks, absolute and total discretion is part of the job at that level. So I am not all that inclined to take sides with Rani Abraham – Richard Scudamore’s PA, who exposed his off-colour emails to the world and has written in The Guardian today to justify herself.

“I couldn’t face him,” she said. “He felt comfortable sending those messages, which included vulgar and sexist conversations about female colleagues, and he didn’t censor his language, even though he knew I’d see them.”

She didn’t do anything at the time – she was on a contract – so it was only when she’d moved elsewhere that she felt emboldened to vent her spleen. “My mother,” she says, “always taught me to speak up for what I believe in. I knew that I had to expose what I had discovered.” All very admirable, except that there’s another imperative here, is there not? Viz, to respect your employer’s privacy rather than squirrelling away his correspondence to discredit him later. You could, you know, always move jobs, as she indeed did.

What worries me a bit about all this is that what Mr Scudamore is being taken to task for is not just insensitivity in exposing a young woman working for him to dirty messages, though ones not addressed to her, but the bad attitude underlying the emails. And I’d say myself that he’s entitled to have bad, coarse thoughts, so long as they don’t come out in his work. Yet the PM has felt free to indicate that he would have sacked him if he’d been in the Cabinet.

Aren’t we entitled to private opinions anymore? Isn’t it enough to require people in public positions to behave well in the job rather than imposing some sort of audit of their personal views? What Mr Scudamore says to his friends in what he fondly thought to be the written equivalent of a phone call shouldn’t be our business or the Premier League’s; his actual work, promoting women’s football or whatever, is. Otherwise we’ll be imposing some sort of moral scrutiny on the uprightness of people’s views before they’re even appointed to a public role – and unless the role is that of a bishop, we’ve got no business to. Miss Abraham says she would “like to sue Scudamore and the Premier League for the distress they’ve caused me”; if so, perhaps she should make clear right now that she has no desire to make money from the episode. People might, you know, think that this was what got her going in the first place.