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Leeds United worker sacked as she came 'as a pair with head coach'

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Leeds United worker sacked as she came ‘as a pair with head coach’

A former Leeds United employee was sacked because she came “as a pair” with her partner who left his position as head coach, a tribunal heard.

The football club is currently involved in a twin unfair dismissal and sex discrimination tribunal against Lucy Ward, 41, the former head of education and welfare at the boys’ academy for Leeds United.

The respected academy officer was relieved of her duties last July, soon after her partner, Neil Redfearn, was also let go.

The tribunal in Leeds heard that executive director Adam Pearson revealed to Ms Ward, 41, that Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino was set on firing both her and Redfearn.

Previous reports said the suspension was for gross misconduct after taking too much holiday while on BBC duty in Canada for the Women’s World Cup.

Now a tribunal in Leeds has heard there were “strong football rumours” that Miss Ward would be sacked shortly after Mr Redfearn.

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

Evidence by businessman Ismail Ghandour, who had met Pearson over potential investment in the Championship club, outlined Cellino’s plans.

He said Pearson had relayed that ‘Mr Cellino sees them [Ms Ward and Mr Redfearn] as a pair’.

Mr Ghandour added: “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.”

When asked why she didn’t raise the point in her disciplinary hearing that Mr Cellino believed her and Mr Redfearn came “as a pair”, Miss Ward said: “I never raised that fact because I expected a man of Mr Pearson’s standing to complete a thorough and fair investigation.”

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.

Referring to this, Miss Ward acknowledged that the offices were being restructured but claimed her colleagues had been told not to inform her of the change in locks.

As welfare and education officer, Ward has helped oversee the development of 250 Leeds players over 17 years. The case, which continues, will see Redfearn testify for her, with Pearson and Leeds club secretary Stuart Heaton taking the stand in the club’s defence. The court heard that the burden of proof in the case lies with Ward.