A PROFESSIONAL after-dinner speaker has been accused of making “sexist, racist and homophobic” jokes during an awards ceremony for Scottish sports journalists.

Bill Copeland, a lawyer based in Lanarkshire, works as a speaker across Scotland’s events circuit – and on Sunday night was hired to entertain guests at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association awards ceremony.

His address sparked backlash, with BBC sports journalist Eilidh Barbour saying she had “never felt so unwelcome in the industry” as she did during the event.

Gabriella Bennett, who was also at the event, added that her table joined Barbour’s in walking out due to the nature of the speech.

The Times journalist described Copeland’s speech as “next-level”, adding: "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."

The National understands that Copeland made jokes about Japanese Celtic players and his wife. 

A spokesperson for the speaker told the Mail that he was sorry for any offence caused.

The Scottish Football Writers’ Association released a statement saying: “The Scottish Football Writers’ Association apologises to anyone offended or upset by material from one of our after-dinner speakers at last night’s annual awards dinner.

“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.”

So who is Bill Copeland?

Copeland attended a selective school in Bishopbriggs before studying at Strathclyde after leaving school. After completing his education, Copeland worked as a lawyer specialising in criminal defence work.

Alongside his legal work, Copeland has worked as a regular after-dinner speaker for events, working around Scotland, the UK and abroad.

Copeland has also done some radio work, appearing on BBC Scotland’s Fred MacAulay Show as a guest.

According to talent agency Neil Drover Entertainment, Copeland’s style is suited to corporate, business, trade association and sporting audiences, even singling out “posh and proletarian golf club prize givings”.

“He’s happy to tailor and customise his speech to any specific requirements,” the agency says.

“Bill’s mission statement as a speaker is to follow his grandfathers old adage – Always leave them begging for more!” the description goes on.

Since news broke about the event walk-out, Copeland has been removed from the roster of talent agency XSP Entertainments.

Kick It Out and Women in Football speak out

Following the organisers’ statement, Kick It Out and Women in Football put out a joint-statement calling for change.

"We have been made aware of sexist, racist and homophobic remarks made at the Scottish Football Writers' Awards last night, during an after-dinner speech,” it read.

"Women face sexism and misogyny in society, and this is often exacerbated when they play a role in football and other sports - whether they're a player, a pundit or a fan. That must change. Racism and homophobia also continue to be a stain on the game, and we must continue to challenge it and eradicate it. There is no place for any form of discrimination, in sport or anywhere else.

"Events that celebrate talent in our game should be a time to focus on the positives and all the people who have played their part in pushing football forward. It should not be used as a platform to share derogatory and discriminatory comments and make groups and communities feel excluded and insulted. We expect better and we demand better.

"The fact we have been made aware by those in attendance that they felt unwelcome within the industry they work is unacceptable, and we stand with them. We acknowledge the apology issued by the Scottish Football Writers' Association and look forward to their promised review of future events. In the meantime we will be reaching out to understand the full details and offer our support to those affected."