It came as a surprise to many that, so soon after his dismissal from Ajax, Marc Overmars found himself another job. Antwerp were the ones who decided that the reward was worth the risk in appointing the former Barcelona and Arsenal midfielder. A few weeks ago, the outcome of the investigation in Overmars sexual harassment at Ajax was finalised in the Netherlands, with the sporting director receiving a one year suspension from sporting activities. However, this only applies in the Netherlands, for now. The case has now been referred to FIFA, who could impose the ban more widely meaning that Overmars would be suspended from his current role with Antwerp.
Yet it is hard to feel sorry for Antwerp’s decision makers in any of this. Fans of the club were pretty vocal in their criticism of the club bringing Overmars in so soon after his dismissal. In footballing terms, it is clear that Overmars is a top sporting director. His time at Ajax proved that, and since his departure the club have struggled. On the other hand, Overmars made key decisions that ultimately led to the title being won by Antwerp for the first time since 1957. He brought in Mark Van Bommel, Vincent Janssen and Toby Alderweireld, all of whom were crucial in delivering the league.
So perhaps for the clubs board, the reward was fully worth the risk. They took the rightful criticism for their actions and held firm, refusing to perform a U-turn and dismiss Overmars when there was widespread criticism. The one year suspension, or any form of suspension, was always a likely outcome as it was clear that the former Arsenal midfielder had acted in a way that made female colleagues uncomfortable.
Regardless of club affiliation, from the outside it would feel unjust if Overmars was able to continue in his current role without any consequences for his actions. One would hope that he has learned from his mistakes, but some form of punishment would at least show the victims of his actions that their situation was taken seriously, even if you disagree with the severity of lack of severity of the sentence.
If FIFA do not carry over the suspension to take place beyond the borders of the Netherlands, many will rightly questions how seriously the footballing world takes issues of sexual harassment within the game.