The Football Association chairman, Greg Dyke, has described a sexist email exchange involving the Premier League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, as "totally inappropriate" – as a bitter debate over how the case is being handled intensifies within football.
Scudamore will attend a scheduled meeting of the Premier League's audit and remuneration committee on Monday that will discuss whether he should face action over the emails, in which he told sexist jokes and warned a lawyer friend to keep a female colleague they nicknamed Edna "off your shaft" in an exchange about a game of golf.
The lawyer friend with whom he exchanged the emails also referred to women as "gash". The emails were seen by a former temporary PA who leaked them to the Sunday Mirror.
Scudamore, who emphasised they were "private emails exchanged between colleagues and friends of many years" and which should not have been accessed by his PA, nevertheless apologised and said: "It was an error of judgment that I will not make again."
When the FA said on Monday that it was unable to charge Scudamore with bringing the game into disrepute because it was a private matter, many within the organisation were aghast that it had not also condemned the views expressed in the emails. But following intense criticism from politicians and equality groups, senior figures from the FA including Dyke and the general secretary, Alex Horne, made it clear that they also disapproved.
In a letter to Edward Lord, a member of the FA's inclusion advisory board (IAB), which was copied to the acting Premier League chairman, Peter McCormick, Dyke said: "In terms of FA disciplinary policy we, as the FA, could have considered taking action had Mr Scudamore's statements been made in the public arena.
"However our policy has always been that we do not consider something stated in a private email communication to amount to professional misconduct. We do, however, consider the content of the emails to be totally inappropriate."
A special meeting of the IAB has been convened for next Tuesday by the board's chair, the independent FA board member Heather Rabbatts – who has called the emails "unacceptable" – to discuss the issue.
Lord said he welcomed the "robust stance" taken by Dyke, who is understood to have taken extensive legal advice on whether Scudamore should be charged under its rules. "I look forward to the IAB meeting next week and getting an explanation from the FA about the decision they have taken."
Dyke's comments went significantly further than the official FA statement issued on Monday, as did an email to staff from Horne, who wrote: "It is important I communicate to all staff how disappointed all of us are in the tone and nature of the content of these emails, which we believe is totally inappropriate.
"Richard is not an employee of the FA and the matter is one for the Premier League to address considering their respective policies. The issue is something we will continue to monitor."
But one former FA executive said he believed that the governing body did have the power to charge Scudamore, but had chosen not to. "The Premier League is a personal fiefdom and has been structured as such to protect those with power," he said. The Premier League audit and remuneration committee that will consider the case is chaired by Chelsea's chairman, Bruce Buck, and also includes the Manchester United director David Gill and the Stoke City chairman, Peter Coates.
Scudamore informed both McCormick, standing in for the ill Anthony Fry, and Buck as soon as he was aware of the Sunday Mirror story.
"As has been made clear in the letters from the chairman and general secretary, our view is these comments were totally inappropriate and unacceptable," Rabbatts added.
"We have convened a special meeting of the IAB next Tuesday and we have asked the Premier League to respond on this matter, and we look forward to hearing from them before that meeting on the positive and concrete steps that they will take."
Scudamore is scheduled to attend a dinner next Tuesday to mark 20 years of the equality body Kick It Out. Its chairman, Lord Ouseley, has been among those who have been critical of the way the process has been handled.
The Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, which has also been critical, welcomed the Premier League's confirmation that it would consider the matter. "This is a positive step and we hope the Premier League demonstrates unequivocally that this instance of sexism was a one-off and is not emblematic of a wider sexist culture," said the chief executive, Ruth Holdaway.