Vince Cable urges Premiership Rugby to review Gallagher sponsorship over UK CEO’s ‘complicated fat Arab’ slur

Vince Cable

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has written to Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty, urging the sport to review its commercial relationship with Gallagher after its UK CEO Simon Matson was revealed to have referred to an employee as a ‘complicated fat Arab’.

The comment about an outgoing employee, made in a private Whatsapp message to Alesco chief operating officer Gary Lashmar while Matson was CEO of Alesco in July 2017, was revealed in an ongoing court case on alleged staff poaching between the broker and the Ardonagh Group.

Matson agreed under oath that the comment was regrettable, but denied it was discriminatory.

The CEO denied an allegation that he told an anonymous underwriter he would never allow an Arab to run one of his businesses.

Gallagher international commercial director, Vyvienne Wade made a reference to “awaiting 72 virgins” in heaven in an email exchange, it was revealed.

In his letter to the Premiership Rubgy boss, Cable, pictured, wrote: “Mr Matson has conceded these [‘complicated fat Arab’] were his words, but has insisted that this had been regrettable – not a ‘proud moment’ – rather than discriminatory. Clearly, this is an unacceptable argument.”

Cable added: “Furthermore, there are allegations of racism from other senior quarters of the company, such as verses from the Koran being used to mock Mr Hasan.

“As you know, I take a keen interest in the reputation of a sport which defines the identity of Twickenham and I am delighted by the success of Harlequins. However, whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, such awful words from the chief executive of Rugby Premiership’s biggest and most prominent sponsor can only inflict damage on the sport. Campaigns such as the ‘Kick racism out of rugby’ group can only be severely undermined by such associations.

“The disgraceful culture should have been kicked out of Britain’s boardrooms decades ago and it is not Premiership Rugby’s fault that it has found itself in this situation.

“However, for the good of the sport, I urge you to reviews Premiership Rugby’s relationship with Gallagher immediately.”

When contacted by Post, a Gallagher spokesperson said: “This issue continues to distract from the actual legal matters at hand in this case - namely that Ardonagh Group solicited and enticed away a group of our employees unlawfully, and by unethical means. This included the theft of confidential company and client data and the payment of £625,000 to one of our employees, who continued to work in our business handling sensitive and confidential information for a further four months. 

“Simon Matson takes his commitment to inclusion and diversity seriously, as does everyone in the leadership team at Gallagher.

“The private messages that have been made public through this trial are more than two-years old and have been taken out of context. The individuals involved have expressed their deep regret, and apologised to colleagues for both the poor choice of language and the unintended offence this has caused. This is not a fair or true reflection of these individuals, nor of Gallagher’s values as a business. We have a long standing commitment to inclusion and diversity and over the past 18 months have also refreshed our internal training programme to include sensitivity and unconscious bias training for all employees – top down and bottom up.”

Ardonagh has denied the allegations made by Gallagher.

Premiership Rugby declined to comment.

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