This short post is merely an unimportant observation upon the controversy surrounding Phil Neville’s recent appointment as the manager of the England women’s football team.
The furore has been over two issues: firstly, whether or not his ‘celebrity’ as a former multi-decorated Manchester United and also England football player had prompted his appointment, i.e. rather than any proven track record as a manager at any level; and secondly, some ill-judged on-the-face-of-it sexist and inappropriate comments he made in 2011 on Twitter – most particularly the tweet he sent which read:
‘Relax, I’m back chilled – just battered the wife!!! Feel better now!‘
Mr Neville has since repeatedly apologised for the comment, stressing that he is not sexist and that he was brought up to respect women – his twin sister Tracey has been manager of the England women’s netball team since 2015 – and it certainly does not reflect his actual views upon women.
He also said that, although it was not apparent from the offending tweet, his comment had been made in the context of a sporting contest he had just had with his wife whilst they were on holiday.
It is that last statement that I have a difficulty with after I heard on BBC television one of many interviews he has given on the subject in recent days.
“It was at table tennis, or basketball …“
In the course of experience gained during my time in the legal profession, whenever a witness (whether giving testimony either for the prosecution or the defence) is recalling a particular and important event, they very rarely have any lack of certainty about exactly what they were doing at the relevant time.
My point is this.
Whilst not here suggesting for a moment that Phil Neville was being ‘economical with the truth’ during the interview in question, I am simply remarking that – given the crucial importance of the event he was recalling in seeking to defend himself against the charge of having made an offensive remark – you’d think he be able to recall whether the game he’d just been playing with his wife was table tennis or basketball.
They’re not exactly similar sports.