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Criticism of agency over racist tweet controversy - but is it fair?

There is growing criticism of Savills on social media following the controversy over a racist tweet apparently sent from the personal account of one of its employees.

Although the employee has now been suspended pending the result of a police investigation, many on social media have commented about aspects of the Savills response to the racist abuse.

Some are critical of the apparent time taken to suspend the individual: the tweet in question was posted late evening on Sunday with an immediate backlash across social media. Savills first commented on the issue some 10 hours later, and it was a further six hours or so before it announced the suspension.


During the day yesterday, the agency was criticised by - amongst others - celebrity actress and writer Shobna Gulati, famous for roles in Coronation Street and Dinnerladies. After the morning statement by Savills, Gulati tweeted: “And for the record Savills needs to ‘investigate’ quicker - we all saw that tweet and this behaviour language deep rooted racism from what appears to be their employee needs sorting with immediate effect … It’s not difficult.”

High profile sports commentator Suzi Perry also ‘liked’ a tweet urging that the perpetrator “face the penalties” of the racist tweet.

However, Savills has to abide by complicated and sometimes slow-moving legal procedures surrounding employees' rights.

A second area of criticism concerns the background to Savills’ apparent commitment to equal opportunities, diversity and its opposition to discrimination.

Hundreds of social media users have posted a screen grab of Savills’ senior UK management - taken from the agency’s website here - showing 39 individuals, all of which appear to be white and only five of which are female. The tweets accompanying the screen grab claim the make-up of the senior management team reflects a far from diverse approach.

In addition to all that, another tweet claimed to be from the suspended employee has been widely circulated; it was dated March 9 and refers to the race issue. Although it lacks the incendiary wording of the Sunday evening tweet, it includes the sentence: “It seems that only those of black origin have decided the world or those of white origin are against them.” 

Some observers on social media have asked whether the individual’s social media accounts were hacked on March 9 as well as on July 11.

Meanwhile the story has gained international currency being featured on websites in many countries and prominent coverage in both the Guardian Online and the Daily Mail Online, considered two of the world’s most-read news sites.

A statement to the media by Greater Manchester Police says: "GMP has received complaints about a social media post following the Italy v England Euro 2020 final at Wembley yesterday. Reports from across the UK are being collated by United Kingdom Football Policing Unit and The Metropolitan Police and will then be allocated to the relevant forces for further investigation if required.”

And a Metropolitan Police statement says: "We are aware of a number of offensive and racist social media comments being directed towards footballers following the Euro 2020 final. This abuse is totally unacceptable, it will not be tolerated and it will be investigated.”

Meanwhile the full statement yesterday afternoon from Savills said: “Savills confirms that the staff member connected with the racist comments on Twitter claims that his account was taken over by a third party and that the matter is being referred to the Greater Manchester Police.

“Savills has acted swiftly and confirms that the individual is suspended from duty pending the findings of this investigation, which is being progressed as a priority. Savills has a policy of zero tolerance on any form of racial abuse or discrimination.”

  • icon

    They have acted quick quickly on the social media front and shouldn't be bounced into making a conclusion without investigating properly.

    If the employee is found to have posted it then I have every confidence they'll terminate his employment and rightly so.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    If you engage in Social Media, especially as a big brand, you have to be prepared to react instantly when something goes viral- be it a problem or a success. That said, you will never please everyone on SM- and many people comment strongly against brands they have never bought from before- nor do they plan to. As such, any harsh words are often just that- gone in the ether tomorrow. I doubt a huge segment of Savills client base are sat on Social Media engaging in these viral events so I doubt it will impact them much either way. However, the crowd will want blood so they do need to move swiftly to a conclusion/decision.

  • icon

    It will make no difference to Savills - people with expansive will still use them
    Agree that a lot of their clients will not use mebook twatter etc i am one of those
    Todays news is tomorrows chip paper


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