PUT A bunch of ladies in a room for a corporate networking event, and what’s the last topic you’d choose to centre the discussion on? Football?
So when The Capitalist rocked up yesterday at the swanky Mayfair hotel for a “Ladies’ Day” organised by law firm Crowell & Moring, it was surprising, to say the least, to see that the event had been themed entirely around the upcoming World Cup. But after explanation over dainty pastries at the pre-event breakfast (admittedly, the world of football must be the only workplace harder than the City for the fairer sex to prosper) and a fantasy World Cup team-building event (surprisingly, one of the most entertaining ways to fritter away £60m before lunchtime), the ladies gathered in the room were eager as football-crazy schoolboys to hear the guest speakers’ pearls of wisdom.
First up was Kelly Simmons, the FA’s head of national game, who kept her date at the conference despite the storm over the organisation’s former chairman Lord Triesman at the weekend (“At least the FA is never a dull place to work,” she joked.)
Mind you, she might have passed up a golden recruitment opportunity when Karren Brady, the former Birmingham City managing director and new vice-chairman of West Ham United, took the stage for her speech.
Asked after the event whether there’d be any place for a woman at the helm of the FA in the future – given Triesman’s resignation and that of the organisation’s ex-chief executive Ian Watmore a few months ago – Simmons quipped: “Well, Karren is inspirational – but she ran off before I could remind her there are two positions going at the FA…”
Speaking of Ms Brady, she may only have been at West Ham for a couple of months, but The Capitalist would wager the players are already wondering what’s hit them.
Brady is forcing them to do their bit for society – “Every footballer who signed under me at Birmingham, and every footballer who will sign at West Ham, does four hours community service per week,” she says. “And believe me, they will do it.”
You get the feeling she’s not someone to be trifled with, either. Regaling the audience at yesterday’s event with the tale of the first time any man in football tried to play the sexist card with her, Brady recalled the first – and last – time she ever travelled on the Birmingham City team bus.
“I was on the way back from the loo on the bus when one of the players shouted out: ‘I can see your tits from here’,” she explained. “So I turned round to him and said, ‘Well, you won’t see them when I send you off to Crewe. Three days later, I sold him – it was the best bit of business I ever did.”
That’s the spirit.
Doing the rounds in the City yesterday: an email from an unfortunate Polish chap working at a French bank, who sent a grovelling message to a wide group of cross-syndicate colleagues which read: “Apologies for the incontinence caused.” Oh, the pitfalls of language learning.
A cancellation notice arrives for an exclusive breakfast meeting hosted by Business for New Europe, the pro-reform group founded by City spinmaster Roland Rudd, scheduled to take place this morning in the smart Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair.
The event was originally convened to analyse the new post-election political landscape, though I’m told it was shelved because invitees didn’t wish to commit to their attendance before the result of the election came out. Mind you, given the Eurozone seems to be intent upon steering itself towards cardiac arrest, it’s probably for the best.
Those wishing to hedge their bets when it comes to flights booked for later this summer, given the eternally-erupting Icelandic volcano, will be pleased to hear that bookie Paddy Power is on the case.
The move allows would-be holidaymakers to bet on any UK or Irish airport being closed for at least an hour on any day between June and August, covering them in the case of further vacation chaos. Though the last time that Eyjafjallajökull erupted, it lasted for over a year, so perhaps it’d be worth a cheeky punt just for fun.
City cyclists, unite! Canary Wharf-based medical charity Doctors of the World UK is calling all those fond of donning the Lycra to sign up for their fifth London to Paris Bike Ride, taking place on 22 – 24 July.
I’m told the three-day challenge covers almost 190 miles of stunning countryside and ends at the Champs Elysées in beautiful Paris in time to watch the final stages of the Tour de France the next day.
Visit www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk for more details – the funds go to a good cause, providing medical care to vulnerable people around the world who are touched by extreme poverty or natural disasters like the recent earthquake in Haiti.