Lancaster dismissed amidst sexual assault findings
GFF’s Me Too
By Jemima Holmes
In late 2017, women across the world, mainly in the entertainment and sport industries, came forward telling their stories of sexual assault and harassment which powered a Me Too movement across the globe. The Me Too trend gave women a voice and not many months later, the first instance of repercussions for actions that went on silently for years was witnessed by the world.
Over 200 US gymnasts, in late January of 2018, testified against Larry Nassar, a doctor who continually abused the young women year after year. Nassar was eventually sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in prison. Although the punishment handed down in our little nation was not quite as severe, it is a step in the right direction.
“Let me be very clear to our entire fraternity: Sexual harassment, abuse, inappropriate behaviour and discrimination of any kind have no place in football whatsoever. While football cannot fix society’s problems, under my leadership, the GFF will do everything it can to improve the football environment and protect the integrity of the women and girls in the sport” were the words of Guyana Football Federation (GFF) President Wayne Forde, as the head of the GFF was finally ready to deliver the verdict on sexual harassment allegations that were brought to light some 10 months ago.
In March of 2018, a Board of Inquiry (BoI) featuring five women was set up to handle the allegations of sexual assault that were peddled against the Head of the Referees, Stanley Lancaster and Referee Assessor Roy McArthur by female referees.
At the head of the BoI was Dr Karen Pilgrim, Vice President of the Guyana Olympic Association, who acted as chairman. The remainder of the board included Dr Melissa Ifill of the University of Guyana; Karen Joseph, Human Resources Consultant; Karen De Souza, Red Thread and Joy Nichola Marcus-Reid, also of Red Thread.
Though off to a rocky start in March, the Board was finally able to present the GFF’s Executive Committee with a final report on November 19, 2018. As protocol would have it, the report was then reviewed by the Executive Committee at their next meeting on December 1, after which sanctions were to be made.
After more than a month in the possession of the Executive Committee, the GFF Head was finally ready to pronounce on the troubling issue on Monday afternoon. Taking a strong stance on the Federation’s behalf, Forde condemned the ordeal endured by the women.
“The Federation will not condone any form of sexual harassment, abuse, inappropriate behaviour or discrimination within the football fraternity, past or present. We know that this problem has plagued football for many years – but, we are taking a formidable stand against it,” Forde stated.
Describing the process as a ‘difficult’ one, according to Forde the GFF is now in a better position to handle future allegations of this nature.
“There has been a significant amount of institutional learning during this difficult process. I can assure our football fraternity and the general public that the Guyana Football Federation is now better equipped to handle issues of this nature,” he said.
As such, the GFF Head went on to express his gratitude to the members of the BoI and disclosed that the implementation of the Board’s recommendations will begin in a timely manner.
“The Executive Committee has accepted the findings and recommendations of the Board of Inquiry. GFF Third Vice President Thandi McAllister will oversee the implementation of these recommendations. We will take steps necessary to support the healing of those affected, and to do what we can to urgently rebuild trust in our fraternity.”
In light of the Board’s findings, the perpetrators of the alleged actions have been disciplined. “Head of Referees, Stanley Lancaster has been dismissed from his position with immediate effect. Referees Assessor Roy McArthur has been provisionally suspended, pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings by the GFF Disciplinary Committee, under the newly-approved Disciplinary Code,” the GFF President announced.
“This GFF leadership is determined to bring the culture of football into the 21st Century so that women and girls always feel safe, welcome, respected and equal in all aspects of the sport – from administration to the field of play,” Forde boldly stated after promising that the Federation would be quick to investigate instances of harassment or discrimination.