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30 Dec, 2020 20:38

‘Clueless’: Female football pundit at center of sexism row after claiming Premier League club had been ‘promoted because of Covid’

‘Clueless’: Female football pundit at center of sexism row after claiming Premier League club had been ‘promoted because of Covid’

A blazing row has broken out after a Premier League team made fun of a female TV pundit who claimed they had been helped to promotion by the pandemic, leading to outrage, claims of sexism and barrages of abuse on social media.

Leeds insisted they "greatly respected" Karen Carney's achievements on and off the pitch after 24 hours of acrimony following their 5-0 win over West Brom, starting when the former England winger claimed that the enforced mid-season break earlier this year had helped Marcelo Bielsa's notoriously high-energy side.

Speaking after the emphatic win for last season's second-tier champions, 33-year-old Carney praised Leeds for running more than their rivals but asked whether they would suffer the problems that had seen them finish poorly in the two campaigns before their promotion.

"We've seen that in the last couple of seasons and I actually think they got promoted because of Covid, in terms of a bit of respite," she said on the live broadcast, to the dismay of the Yorkshire club and many of its fans.

"I don't know if they would have got up if they hadn't had that break."

Leeds replayed the comments on their official Twitter page, pointing out that they had won the division by ten points and causing a predictable flurry of venom towards Carney, who was sent violent threats in 2018 after scoring the only goal for Chelsea in a Champions League match against Fiorentina.

Football writer Annie Eaves tagged Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani into her tweet as she seethed: "This is disgusting.

"Leeds United should be ashamed. Clubs shouldn’t directly target people like this, especially when it’s just routine punditry. The replies are what would be expected."

Mega-wealthy Italian businessman Radrizzani took responsibility as he fired back: "I consider [Carney's] comment completely unnecessary and disrespectful to our Club and particularly to the fantastic hard work of our players and coaches, who were outstanding on the pitch for the last two championship seasons by all stats."

Wales player Jessica Fishlock also slammed Leeds, telling the club: "The point being made here is valid," she said, defending Carney. "Agree or disagree, that’s fine - but it’s a valid point.

"You know exactly what you are doing with this tweet, opening someone up to an obscene amount of abuse from your fanbase. Grow Up. Thanks."

Inevitable accusations of misogyny followed. "Absolutely disgraceful to see the Leeds social media team pointing their fans towards a fantastic female pundit," said one fan.

"Fingers crossed the Leeds fanbase aren’t as ignorant as the people running this account."

Another responded: "Ridiculous comment. Why are you making this a sexist thing?

"She made a disrespectful comment. It's her opinion so it's up to her whether to say it or not.

"The club have every right to push back and challenge the comment."

Well-known Sky Sports pundit Jim White reported that Radrizzani had expressed his sorrow and regret to him over his remarks, although the offending tweet had not been deleted by Leeds on Wednesday night and the owner described Carney's opinion as "harsh".

The Women in Football network disagreed. "Whether you agree with the comment or not, singling out and ridiculing an individual on an official club account is not what we’re here for," it announced.

"Karen Carney is a well-informed pundit. This tweet is inciteful and inappropriate. Not a good look now or at any time."

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand waded into the row after seeing a tweet from a director of the agency that represents him.

"Poor from the Leeds United social team, trying to embarrass a hard-working pundit who will now be subject to vile abuse from fans," it said, causing the ex-England regular to reply: "Agree - delete tweet."

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