West Ham figurehead speaks of overcoming misogyny in football at Pendulum Summit

The vice-chairman of West Ham United and star of The Apprentice on BBC, Karren Brady, has spoken of the misogyny she faced when she entered the male-dominated football world - including being asked her physical measurements by the press.

File image of Karren Brady.

The so-called first lady of football, who has overseen West Ham’s move from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium in London, became managing director of Birmingham City FC at the tender age of 23 in 1993.

Ms Brady has become one of the most recognisable faces in British football, male or female, in her 27-year career in the sport.

She told around 3,000 attendees at the second day of the Pendulum Summit at the Convention Centre in Dublin that she turned up to her first press conference as managing director of Birmingham City with “a power suit and a really serious presentation of all the things I was going to do with my football club”.

“I sat in front of about 200 press members, and I went through my really serious presentation, and when I finished, I asked if there were any questions. A hand went up and I said: “Yes, sir?”. He said he was Sunday People and asked: “What are your vital statistics?” In reality, that is all they were interested in.

“I said I know it is hard for you to look at a woman, and a young woman at that, coming here to work at this football club, but trust me, when you come back here in 10 years time, we’re going to set the standards that others are going to follow, and we’re going to be in the best league in the world.”

Ms Brady regaled the audience with the infamous tale of her first trip on the Birmingham City team bus, where one of the players shouted at her that he “could see her tits”.

Ms Brady quipped back to the player that he would not be able to see them from Crewe Alexandra, and he was promptly sold three days later.

“It was the best bit of business I ever did,” the London-born member of the House of Lords said.

Within four years of taking the helm at Birmingham City, Ms Brady became the youngest managing director of a PLC when the business was floated with for £25m. It was sold in 2010 for £82.5m.

When former Birmingham City owners David Sullivan and David Gold bought West Ham United, Ms Brady was appointed vice-chairman where she negotiated the team’s move to the Olympic Stadium.

My prediction to this journalist probably became true 12 years later. Deloitte wrote a report about the business of football across Europe, and wrote that the blueprint for running a successful football club could be found at mine. We had no debt, profitable, making money and being in the best league in the world. I sold it in 2010 for £82.5m.

“We’ve obviously gone on and bought West Ham which is now worth £1bn, the seventh most valuable club in the Premier League, the 15th in the world, with 52,000 season ticket holders, £65m profits over the past couple of years.”


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