Letter from Lib Dem leader to Rugby Premiership says the comments from Simon Matson and others “can only inflict damage on the sport”

Revelations of racist language used by senior Gallagher staff about a departing employee could put the broker’s sponsorship deal with Premiership Rugby at risk.

This is after Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable yesterday wrote to Premiership Rugby urging it to review the current arrangement with Gallagher, saying that “this disgraceful culture should have been kicked out of Britain’s boardrooms decades ago”.

The racist language has been exposed in court proceedings during the ongoing dispute between Ardonagh and Gallagher.

Comments made in 2017 include Gallagher chief executive Simon Matson referring to ex-employee Nawaf Hasan as a “complicated fat Arab” in a WhatsApp conversation with Alesco’s chief operating officer Gary Lashmar. Lashmar was heard at court to have responded in the WhatsApp exchange “and a very greedy one at that”.

The court has also heard international commercial director Vyvienne Wade made a reference to the Qur’an when speaking about Hasan in an email exchange with Matson, writing about “awaiting 72 virgins”.

Damage to the sport

The letter from Sir Vince to Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty states the comments “must put into question Premiership Rugby’s relationship with Gallagher”.

The letter from Twickenham MP Sir Vince states: “Whatever the rights or 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.”

He added that for “the good of the sport” Premiership Rugby should review its relationship with Gallagher immediately.

Gallagher response

The comments were put to Matson during questioning last week. Matson told the court it was regretful and that it was “not a proud moment”.

But Sir Vince said in the letter “clearly this is an unacceptable argument”.

A spokesperson for Gallagher said: “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.”

Distraction

Gallagher is suing Ardonagh for an alleged targeted attack on Gallagher-owned Alesco through stealing its staff and business.

The Gallagher spokesperson added: “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.”