In Brief

What does Moyes 'slap' threat reveal about football and him?

Commentators weigh in on whether the Sunderland manager's comments to BBC reporter Vicky Sparks had a deeper meaning

A day after it emerged that Sunderland manager David Moyes had warned a female BBC reporter to "be careful" or she might get a "slap" for asking "naughty" questions, debate rages over what sanction the former Everton and Manchester United boss should face.

Some have called for him to be sacked from the Wearside club and others want him to face an FA charge. There are also concerns that the episode has exposed the misogyny at the heart of the game.

Moyes's comments to Vicky Sparks, made when he thought the cameras had stopped rolling, made him look like "a dinosaur seemingly stuck in the 1950s and thoroughly out of step with the 21st-century world", says Louise Taylor of The Guardian

He appeared to betray "a latent lack of respect for women reporters", she says, adding: "Until relatively recently, such mindsets were, if not exactly the norm, fairly widespread."

However, Taylor says, times have changed, which is evident in the way the incident was handled.

"The good news is that (giving Sunderland's manager the benefit of the doubt and assuming he was not told how to respond) Moyes felt the need to apologise, Sparks's editors were outraged and, once the story was leaked to the Daily Star, the wider media decided it had legs. At one time it would have been very hard to envisage a manager picking up the phone in a similar scenario, media bosses being sympathetic or news organisations deciding the issue was remotely worth pursuing."

Henry Winter of The Times says the row has exposed the "misogyny rampant in the darker depths of social media" rather than football.

"Moyes was foolish, and disrespectful to somebody doing her job, but one mistake does not automatically mean that hysterical calls for his resignation or dismissal need heeding. But it will inevitably require some sanction from the FA, including Moyes attending a special FA-endorsed course.

"It is not only Moyes's hastily withdrawn remarks that form the depressing part of this narrative. What should also alarm the FA is the venomous, one-eyed reaction of so many Neanderthals still lurking in the digital shadows, belittling a woman's right to ask a football question."

But does the episode also reveal more about Moyes's ability to handle the pressure of top flight management? Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail believes so.

"It was patronising, unequivocal and maybe a little sinister," he says. "It makes for uncomfortable viewing through a computer screen, so no prizes for guessing how it felt for Sparks. Moyes's subsequent telephone apology may have been sincere but does not represent mitigation.

"However, this episode is not really about Moyes's perception of women or violence. There is no great evidence in his 35-year football back story of problems with either. Rather, it speaks of a fundamental coping problem with the strains of his profession."

Ladyman adds that the 53-year-old has "always been uncomfortable in the glare of the lights" and has not reacted well to such pressure throughout his career, from its beginnings at Preston North End through to the torrid nine months he spent at Manchester United.

The incident also illustrates a growing attitude within the corridors of football management, says Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph, one of "disdain" for those who hold them to account.

Moyes's use of the word "careful" is as telling as any other he used, continues Burt: "It is a heavily-loaded word from a man in a powerful position.

"We see examples of it every week – attempts to ridicule, bully and put down questioners who make perfectly legitimate inquiries. Attempts to close down stories or manipulate what is said. Press briefings are cut short; press officers try to block lines of questioning and information is denied. The threat is often implicit."

David Moyes apologises for 'slap' threat to female BBC reporter

03 April

Sunderland manager David Moyes has apologised to a female reporter on the BBC's Match of the Day after he warned her she might get a "slap" even though she is "a woman". 

Footage of the incident, which followed Sunderland's 0-0 draw with Burnley last month, shows Moyes threatening Vicki Sparks after she asked if he felt his position was under threat because of the presence of his chairman at the game.

"It was getting a wee bit naughty at the end there so just watch yourself," said Moyes, after the BBC's cameras stopped rolling. "You still might get a slap even though you're a woman."

He phoned Sparks afterwards to apologise and a BBC spokesman told the Daily Star: "Mr Moyes has apologised to our reporter and she has accepted his apology."

Sunderland said the matter had been "resolved amicably", but a colleague of Sparks told the Star the incident was "disgraceful bullying and sexism".

Despite Sunderland being bottom of the Premier League after another loss at the weekend, Moyes is not in danger of losing his job over the incident "because he quickly admitted his behaviour was unacceptable", reports the Daily Telegraph

"It is that contrition that appears to have saved Moyes, along with the fact that both Sparks and the BBC accepted the apology. Nevertheless, this ugly episode will increase the pressure on the former Everton and Manchester United manager whose side have not been out of the relegation zone since August."

It is another blow for the manager, whose "stock appears to be in decline", says the Daily Mail. [] Moyes's "career trajectory" has changed dramatically since he left Everton to take over at Man United in 2013, adds the paper.

But Moyes is not the only manager to take umbrage with the media, says the Star: "Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho came under fire for his post-match interview with the BBC's Conor McNamara [on Saturday].

"The Portuguese, whose team had been held to a 0-0 draw by West Bromwich Albion, blasted McNamara's questions as 'stupid'."


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