Leeds United tribunal, day two: Players ‘got sickness bug after Cellino sacked cleaners’

Lucy Ward arriving at the Leeds employment tribunal. (Picture: James Hardisty)
Lucy Ward arriving at the Leeds employment tribunal. (Picture: James Hardisty)

A LEEDS UNITED Academy officer told an employment tribunal today that young players and staff suffered a sickness bug after owner Massimo Cellino made cleaning staff redundant.

Lucy Ward also described how she had to take on roles including looking after the laundry at the club’s Thorp Arch training base as well as watching out for trespassers after security staff were dismissed.

Former Leeds United Executive Director Adam Pearson, arriving at Leeds Employment Tribunal.

Former Leeds United Executive Director Adam Pearson, arriving at Leeds Employment Tribunal.

Ms Ward also said she had to take on responsibilities for monitoring players as of the club’s responsibilities to the FA over anti doping.

Leeds United boss Cellino ‘said football is no place for women - they should be in the bedroom’

Ms Ward is claiming unfair dismissal and sex discrimination in a case against the Elland Road club.

The tribunal has heard claims that United owner Massimo Cellino sacked Ms Ward because of her relationship with the club’s former manager, Neil Redfearn, who he planned to sack as they “came as a pair”.

Ms Ward said today: “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 said Cellino had previously praised her in a senior management meeting for taking on extra roles at the Academy.

She told the hearing: “At one stage after dismissing or making redundant the cleaners a number of players and members of staff got a sickness bug and Thorp Arch was closed down while it was deep cleaned.

“I took responsibility for the laundry and made sure the kids were eating and kept an eye out through the window that there were no trespassers because there was no security.

“I took on the responsibility for the FA doping - every week and every month you have to know the whereabouts of each player.

“At other clubs that is a full time job but I took on that responsibility at the Academy.”

Ms Wars added: “Mr Cellino was extremely grateful for me taking on this extra responsibility.”

Redfearn also gave evidence today in which he described how he was informed of the decision to place him on gardening leave during a meeting with Pearson to discuss his contract.

The meeting, held on June 22 last year, took place while Ms Ward was still in Canada working as an analyst at the Women’s World Cup.

Redfearn said Pearson also told him at the meeting of Cellino’s plan to get rid of Ms Ward.

He said: “He basically said that he was trying to give me a heads up that he had also spoken to Mr Cellino about Lucy Ward and that he would be looking at getting rid of her as well because he thought that we came as a pair.”

Barrister Lucy Bairstow, who is representing Leeds United, asked Redfearn: “Why on earth would he give you a heads up about your partner who had never met?”

Redfearn replied: “You will have to ask him that.”

Pearson is due to give evidence later today.

Former Leeds United executive director Adam Pearson defended the decision to dismiss Ms Ward.

Pearson told the hearing he did not believe Ms Ward had sought appropriate permission from senior management to go to work for the BBC at the Women’s World Club.

He said: “If I was in Ms Ward’s position and a new employer had come in to the club I would have sought formal permission from the club to be doing work anywhere else.

“Just to wander off for two months and go and take employment with another employer is disrespectful and discourteous.”

Pearson said Ms Ward’s line manager at the club, Adam Underwood, had been “extremely vague” when he had sought to clarify with him whether Ward had specifically been given permission.

Pearson said: “Mr Underwood has been entirely vague in relation to all communication.

“I am amazed that Mr Underwood has not been invited to be a witness because, as far as I am concerned, his evidence is key.”

During cross examination by Ms Ward’s barrister, Nicholas Randall, QC, the lawyer accused Pearson of “ambushing” his client with evidence during a disciplinary hearing.

Pearson replied: “It’s no ambush.”

Mr Randall asked Pearson: “The truth of the matter is that you were told to get rid of Lucy when you were told that Mr Redfearn was on his way out because Mr Cellino told you they came as a pair.”

Pearson replied: “Mr Cellino has never made that comment. It is totally untrue.”

Earlier in the hearing Mr Randall said to Pearson: “You are lying, Mr Pearson, aren’t you?

Pearson replied: “No”

The barrister continued: “You knew exactly what happened here. You were told to get rid of her by Mr Cellino.”

Pearson replied: “No.”

Mr Randall continued: “Everything you have done is completely inconsistent with an honest man embarking on an investigation to find the truth.”

Pearson replied: “I take offence at that.”

Ms Ward previously told the tribunal that Mr Redfearn was put on “garden leave” just five minutes before she was suspended.

She said: “Neil Redfearn was put on garden leave on July 3 about five minutes before I was suspended.”

The court also heard that Miss Ward had been locked out of her office and the locks had been changed on her doors without her knowledge in May - two months before her suspension.

During evidence by businessman Ismail Ghandour, the tribunal heard that Adam Pearson, Executive Director of Leeds United, had told Mr Ghandour that “Mr Cellino sees them [Miss Ward and Mr Redfearn] as a pair”.

Mr Ghandour said: “I had a meeting with Adam Pearson on, I think, June 23 and I asked him about the rumours that Lucy was going to be next to go. “I told him that I understand managers come and go but why Lucy?

“Adam Pearson said that Mr Cellino sees them as a pair.”

Miss Ward described her suspension and subsequent disciplinary hearing as “bewildering for me having been a committed member of staff”.

The tribunal continues.