Marc Overmars sent intimate photos to an Ajax employee | sports

The former sports director of Ajax, Marc Overmars, in a file image.
The former sports director of Ajax, Marc Overmars, in a file image.DPA via Europa Press (DPA via Europa Press)

The prevailing macho atmosphere in Ajax makes it difficult to point out cases of harassment such as the one that has caused the resignation of Marc Overmars, 48, its sports director. This is stated in an investigation published on Tuesday by the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, according to which the technician “sent photos of his genitals to an employee and inappropriate messages to several more.” He also asked them what clothes they were wearing. The newspaper has spoken to 11 women, who remain anonymous, and explains that Overmars’ inappropriate behavior had long been known in some departments. He himself said he felt ashamed and sorry for his attitude.

Overmars’ march was made public this Sunday, and the journalistic report goes into detail about the way in which he sent messages that “exceeded the limits of what was appropriate”, as the manager himself admitted when leaving. In the case described, “the photo received by one of them was of the sports director’s genitals; It wasn’t the first of this kind and it wasn’t the last either.” According to the annual report for the 2020-2021 period, 26% of the 408 permanent employees are women, and the newspaper maintains that they fear the consequences if they criticize “the richest, best-known and most successful sports club in the Netherlands.” In the conversations held by the newspaper with the 11 employees, an environment conducive to sexual harassment is described and makes it difficult to mention cases of abuse of power. “Silence is the norm, alarm signals are not perceived and are reduced to rumors or personal experience. It’s an alpha male, cockfighting environment.” The imbalance of power within the club means that stereotyped jokes are not corrected and “sexism is part of the club”.

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Overmars, who was a player for Ajax and the Dutch national team, and went through Barcelona and Arsenal, was sporting director since 2012. He was one of the powerful figures of the house, and was in charge of the sports management of the first team as well like the quarry and the women’s teams. Given his success in recent times, with a Europa League final and a Champions League semi-final, in addition to several million-dollar player transfers, he enjoyed great popularity. However, the same investigation asserts that her inappropriate messages have been known for a long time.

Edwin van der Sar, general director of the club, has promoted the presence of women in management positions. This January, he sent a message to all workers stressing the need to pay attention to possible situations of harassment and abuse of power. “At Ajax, everything possible will be done to help those who report such behaviour,” he said.

The note came shortly after a public television documentary uncovered these situations of harassment in the contest The voice (The Voice). There the pianist and leader of the musical group that collaborates with the program resigned, and then a lawsuit was filed against one of the jurors who work with the contestants.

For two years, professional clubs in the Netherlands have been obliged to guarantee that they will maintain a safe sports environment. In this way, they obtain a license from the National Football Federation (KNVB). Clubs must have a service where complaints about inappropriate behavior can be referred. The situation is then independently examined by the Institute for Sports Law, created in 2003 and acting on behalf of some 70 Dutch sports associations.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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