THE organisers of a sports journalism awards ceremony have issued an apology after a keynote speaker was accused of making “sexist and racist jokes”.

Female journalists took to social media on Sunday night to express their concerns over the Scottish Football Writers’ Awards event, with the BBC’s Eilidh Barbour saying she had “never felt so unwelcome in the industry”.

Prompted by comments from after-dinner speaker Bill Copeland, Barbour told Twitter: “A huge reminder there is still so much to do in making our game an equal place.”

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The journalist was backed up by Gabriella Bennett of The Times, who added: “I was at these awards tonight and sat through the same sexist and racist jokes made by a keynote speaker. My table walked out at the same time Eilidh’s did.”

Speaking to the BBC later, Bennett said: "Last night’s speech was really next-level. I walked out after about five minutes of maybe a 20-minute speech."

She went on: "There were loads of people laughing at these jokes. We were two tables in an enormous room and lots of people found it really funny, so there’s lots of work that we still need to do in really changing people’s minds about what’s acceptable."

Other female journalists expressed solidarity with the pair - with Women in Journalism Scotland writing: "Solidarity with Eilidh and all those working towards long-overdue change in our industry."

It is understood that Copeland, a lawyer and professional after-dinner speaker, made a joke about Celtic's Japanese players and other comments about his wife. 

Copeland has now been removed from the roster of talent agency XSP Entertainments.

Scottish Football Writers' Association release statement

After Barbour and Bennett’s accounts prompted debate, the Scottish Football Writers’ Association put out a very brief statement – apologising to “anyone offended or upset” by the speaker’s comments.

They added: “We have agreed unanimously that this will act as a catalyst to review and improve the format of our future events to make it an enjoyable and inspirational event for all.”

Carrie Brown, the first female chair of the UK-wide Football Writers’ Association, said the statement was a “good start”.