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29th September 2015

There she goes: A blue mist surrounds the Eva Carneiro case

Will Kelly looks at what is wrong with the Eva Carneiro case

Chelsea club doctor Eva Carneiro has decided to leave the club, six weeks after criticism from manager Jose Mourinho. Mourinho had downgraded Carneiro’s role after the medical staff treated Eden Hazard during the 2-2 draw with Swansea on 8th August.

With Chelsea being already down to ten men after Thibaut Courtois had been sent off, Carnerio and her medical team rushed onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, who had signalled for medical assistance. It meant that the Blues were temporarily reduced to nine men, and Mourinho said the duo had been “impulsive and naïve.”

Chelsea asked Carneiro to return to work, but after consulting lawyers for the last couple of weeks, she has decided not to and is now considering her legal position. Mourinho himself is being investigated by the Football Association after a member of the public e-mailed the FA, claiming that Mourinho had used sexist language during his touchline outburst against Carneiro. Television footage is currently being examined by the FA and Mourinho could face a five-match ban if found to be guilty.

Carneiro’s departure from Chelsea has provoked exasperation around the football world. The Chair of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board, Heather Rabbatts, has expressed her “sadness and anger” at the news. Moreover, there is complete dismay that the incident against Swansea has led to, according to Rabbatts, “one of the few very senior women in the game, a highly respected doctor,” leaving the club through no fault of her own.

Speaking to a few students on campus, there has been a sense of disillusionment about what has happened. “The fact of the matter is, Carneiro fulfilled her duty as the senior medic and responded to the referee to enter the field of play to treat a player. How can Mourinho have the right to take her off the bench when she was working within her accepted guidelines?” asks Becky Jones, a postgraduate student.

Certainly the organisation of Premier League doctors has recently confirmed that had she not carried out her task, Carneiro would have neglected her duty and a breach of GMC guidelines.

Rabbatts believes that “in acting properly, she was then subject to verbal abuse and public criticism, and in effect, demoted by her removal from the bench. Her departure raises a serious question on how players are safeguarded if their medical support is compromised.”

Mourinho has made no apology for his remarks after the game, about which he stated that “Even if you are a kit man, doctor or secretary on the bench, you have to understand the game.”

The organisation ‘Women in Football’ have responded that they believe, “it is appalling that her professionalism and understanding of football were subsequently called into question by manager Jose Mourinho and it threatened to undermine her professional reputation.”

The cavalier attitude displayed by Chelsea Football Club has even concerned FIFA’s medical committee chairman, Michel D’Hooghe. D’Hooghe has announced his attention to set up a medical sub-committee to draw up a new code of ethics between managers and team doctors.

It is quite frankly ridiculous how we have come to this. I would hope that D’Hooghe will draw up a new code to protect the ever-expanding medical profession in football. Because Carneiro is a woman, people have asked if it is not sexist that she has received more attention than the other physiotherapist who was also punished by Mourinho, Jon Fearn.

Anna Kessel, the chair and co-founder of Women in Football, gives the best answer: That yes, it is indeed sexist, but not in the way that some have implied. “Fearn has not had his photograph plastered across every single newspaper for the last six weeks. He did not have stories sold about his sex life. He did not have intimations made about unprofessional behaviour. He did not have paparazzi camped outside his house or hiding behind bushes to capture him taking his dog for a walk.

“Because while Fearn was also a victim of José Mourinho’s ill-chosen words that day, unfortunately it is women in the football industry who tend to face that added layer of scrutiny in everything that they do. That is what is sexist. That is what we are fighting against.”

The whole issue surrounding Carneiro puts in my eyes another question that we as a society should be asking ourselves. Who is much to blame here? It’s not simply Chelsea Football Club. What I would say regarding Chelsea, is that Mourinho should have never made this issue public in the first place, and instead should have dealt with matters internally. Yes, he does have the right to drop anyone from the bench, but somebody from Chelsea Football Club should have stopped him, for his actions have caused particular embarrassment to Carneiro and Fearn.

On the internet, you can find footage that outlines the sexist abuse Carneiro faces from football fans within the ground. You also have to ask the question of The Sun, who decided to interview Carnerio’s ex-partner in which he revealed vivid details of their sex life. Who has decided that such a story would be in the public interest? What as a society have we become if that is of any importance to us? As Kessel quite rightly says, certainly Fearn and no other man would be subject to such a story.

I believe that there hasn’t been enough made about Carnerio’s decision to leave the club. The Mancunion endorses the calls made by Kessel for the FA and the Premier League to step up and make a difference. This is about medical ethics, human rights, employment rights and the integrity of the game. It is up to the FA to review the evidence and to do the right thing and to take action. We as a society also need to look at ourselves and endorse change, rather than feed onto the prejudice that exists right now.

Eva Carnerio’s downfall has been led by a club for whom she has worked loyally for six years. Now, the very game that we are in love with has so far suggested that it does not care.

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