Abuse in Sport – a new documentary series and film

It has been announced that the BBC is to air a three-part series on football’s child sexual abuse scandal, directed by Daniel Gordon, the director of the acclaimed 2014 documentary, ‘Hillsborough’.

Titled ‘Football’s Darkest Secret’, the series will examine the abuse in youth football which took place across the UK in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The scandal came to light particularly when former Crewe Alexandra player Andy Woodward waived his right to anonymity in November 2016 and revealed that he had been abused by a former coach, Barry Bennell.  This prompted hundreds of other survivors of abuse within football to come forward and it soon became very clear that Bennell (who in February 2018 was jailed for 31 years after being found guilty of 50 counts of child sexual abuse) was just one of a significant number of men responsible for non-recent abuse within football.

In response, also in November 2016, the FA swiftly set up a confidential helpline in conjunction with the NSPCC.

Broadcast dates are yet to be announced.

In the meantime, ‘Slalom’, a harrowing film that fictionalises the sexual abuse suffered by a 15 year old girl (Lyz) at an elite skiing club in France, is now available to watch via Curzon Home Cinema.  Lyz, played by French actress Noée Abita, is groomed and abused by her coach, Fred, played by Jérémie Renier.

The film’s director, Charlène Favier, began writing the script in 2014, but the film was not made until 2019, by which time numerous accounts of sexual abuse in sport had come to light, including the very high profile allegations made by more than 250 US gymnasts against their former doctor Larry Nasser. The Nasser scandal was the basis for Athlete A, a documentary released on Netflix last year.

In 2020, French figure skating was also rocked by claims of decades of sexual abuse within the sport, following allegations by French champion Sarah Abitbol that she had been repeatedly raped as a teenager by her former coach. 

David Milton, Partner, BLM

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