Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino this morning abandoned his plan to appear a the tribunal hearing of his former Academy and welfare officer.
Cellino blamed media attention for his decision not to give oral evidence at the hearing where Lucy Ward is expected to hear details of a compensation settlement after winning a claim for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal.
The Italian arrived in the rain ahead of the hearing at the City Exchange building on Albion Street but left a short time later.
His barrister, Lucy Bairstow, later told the hearing: “When he came to building he observed the number of press who had attended again in relation to the hearing and he felt unable to give evidence.
“He was very concerned about all the press attention and effectively, but for the press attendance, would be sitting in here know. He has left the tribunal building.
“In those circumstance I would simply ask you to tender his statement in evidence.”
The case resumed today after Ms Ward won her claim at a tribunal earlier this year when the hearing was told Cellino had made sexist comments that women had no place in football.
The tribunal panel described Ms Ward as an honest and truthful witness as they gave their judgement in April this year.
The panel said at the time that they believed Cellino had made sexist comments to the manager of the United women’s team that women had no place in football and belonged in the bedroom or at the beauticians.
The panel also judged former Leeds United executive director Adam Pearson not to have been a credible or reliable’ witness when he gave evidence at the hearing to defend the decision to sack Ms Ward.
The club had claimed Ms Ward was sacked because she took an excessive amount of holiday in order to work as a commentator for the BBC at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Ms Ward said she lost her job because of her relationship with the club’s former manager, Neil Redfearn, who Cellino planned to sack as they “came as a pair”.The panel concluded that this dismissal was unfair and that there was a gross unreasonable breach of the ACAS code of conduct.
When she gave evidence at the earlier hearing, Ms Ward said: “I was treated like a piece of meat.
“He (Cellino) just gave me no dignity whatsoever as a career woman in my own right.
“The reason I was being sacked is because I was Neil’s partner.
“If I had not been Neil’s partner I would have been at Leeds United now.”
Ms Ward’s barrister Nicholas Randall, QC called the affair “an utter, total shambles”, and questioned why United’s owner Massimo Cellino had chosen not to give evidence at the hearing.