The FA have been criticised for failing to safeguard women in football after a National League manager was able to take another job despite being forced out by Chesterfield for alleged sexual indecency earlier this year.
Sportsmail can reveal that Chesterfield wrote a ‘letter of concern’ to the FA after their former boss James Rowe was appointed manager of AFC Fylde in March, with a warning that he ‘posed a potential danger to women’. It is understood that Rowe denies the allegations.
Rowe was suspended by Chesterfield on January 24 and left by ‘mutual consent’ two weeks later following what the club described as ‘allegations of misconduct’.
The following month he was appointed manager at Fylde on a three-year contract.
Under Rowe, Fylde have qualified for the National League North play-offs and are two games away from promotion to the National League.
Chesterfield’s decision to oust Rowe has been shrouded in mystery as they were second in the National League at the time and had enjoyed a successful run to the FA Cup third round.
The 38-year-old remains popular with sections of Chesterfield’s fanbase, some of whom chanted his name during last weekend’s defeat by Torquay.
Chesterfield axed James Rowe as their manager for alleged sexual indecency in January
A Sportsmail investigation has discovered the full details of a case that raises serious issues about the safety of women in football and the sport’s handling of complaints involving alleged sexual harassment, including:
- Allegations that Rowe exposed himself to a woman at Chesterfield’s premises, which he denied, but led to him leaving the club;
- Fylde being accused of failing to seek references from Chesterfield about Rowe before appointing him manager despite claiming to have conducted due diligence;
- Chesterfield writing to the FA warning that Rowe presents a potential danger to women in football, and the governing body responding that the alleged victim’s age meant the case did not raise safeguarding issues;
- Chesterfield calling for a formal review of the FA’s safeguarding policies.
A source with knowledge of the case told Sportsmail: ‘Serious allegations have been made and there are concerns about whether it is appropriate for him to continue working in football until all investigations have been completed.
‘The FA claim that it is not a safeguarding issue as the alleged victim is over 18, but young adults can still be vulnerable, particularly women in a macho, male environment.
Rowe was suspended by Chesterfield on January 24 and left by ‘mutual consent’ two weeks later following what the club described as ‘allegations of misconduct’
‘In their press release announcing his appointment, Fylde claimed they did due diligence on his departure from Chesterfield, but as far as I’m aware they didn’t contact anyone at the club.’
In a statement announcing Rowe’s appointment on the club’s website published on March 7, Fylde chairman David Haythornthwaite said: ‘We have done our due diligence on James, and while it is clear he is no shrinking violet, we are confident that James will bring a winning mentality to the club, which we all want.
‘Over the last four days, we have had several meetings with James both face to face and, in my case, as I am away on business, over Teams (a text and video messaging app). We have all been struck by James’s openness, burning ambition and desire to win.’
The FA declined to comment, but sources at Wembley told Sportsmail they were aware of the case and had conducted preliminary inquiries.
Another source said the FA were waiting for other investigations to be concluded before formally opening their own, and questioned whether the case would raise safeguarding issues due to the age of the alleged victim.
Chesterfield wrote a ‘letter of concern’ to the FA after he was appointed manager of non-League side AFC Fylde, warning he ‘posed a potential danger to women’
A National League spokesperson told Sportsmail that the matter was being dealt with by the FA.
Rowe is understood to deny all the allegations, and to have told Fylde there was no substance to them before his appointment as manager. The former Gloucester City manager declined to comment when contacted by Sportsmail, but is believed to have claimed Chesterfield sacked him despite on-field success because of a fall-out with a male member of the club’s executive team.
Sources at Fylde insist they did attempt to speak to Chesterfield about Rowe before appointing him, but claim the National League club refused to engage with them on the grounds that they had signed a non-disclosure agreement with their former manager before his departure.
Fylde staff then conducted their own inquiries and concluded they were able to appoint him.
Chesterfield’s internal investigation into the alleged incident reached a different conclusion however, with the club satisfied there was enough evidence against Rowe to trigger his departure.
AFC Fylde are being accused of failing to seek references from Chesterfield about Rowe before appointing him manager despite claiming to have conducted due diligence
The former non-League striker has already attracted controversy since moving into coaching.
He left a previous job as assistant academy director at West Ham in 2015 after being disciplined by the club following a formal complaint regarding his treatment of young players. Those complaints did not involve allegations of sexual misconduct or physical violence.
Fylde were widely condemned for their attitude towards women earlier this season after being accused of discrimination for posting a job advert which told people not to bother applying ‘if they have to pick the kids up from school twice a week at 3.30’.
The advert for a general manager read: ‘We work hard at Fylde, so again don’t apply if you are looking for a ‘work-life balance’ or have to pick the kids up from school twice a week at 3.30. This is a ‘hands-on role’ and requires hands-on leadership from the front so ‘delegators’ and ‘office dwellers’ please don’t apply.’