Criticism after Argentinian women’s football coach cleared by FIFA of sexual harassment

Diego Alberto Guacci, the technical director of the Argentinian Under-15 and Under-17 women’s national teams has been cleared of allegations of verbal abuse and sexual harassment by a panel of three male FIFA ethics judges. Five female players had given evidence to FIFA accusing Guacci, of violating his duty of care over a number of years.

The FIFA Ethics Committee concluded in their final report that Guacci had violated a number of FIFA code of ethics articles, including “failing to protect, respect and safeguard the integrity and personal dignity of others”, “making use of offensive gestures and language in order to insult, isolate, ostracise players generally and individually”, “having engaged in acts leading to mental abuse, as well as for making use of hostile acts intended to isolate, ostracise players generally and individually” and having “sexually harassed [a player] by presenting her with unwanted and unsolicited images with pornographic content and by requesting her pictures of intimate parts”. However the judges concluded that “the evidence on file is insufficient to corroborate, to its comfortable satisfaction, the players’ account of the events,” but also that their verdict did not mean the ‘reported facts’ did not occur. Guacci has consistently denied wrongdoing.

The international players’ union Fifpro said: “The players were extremely brave to challenge the coach’s conduct and contribute towards making football a safer and more inclusive environment for their peers. The decision by the FIFA ethics committee raises questions about how much evidence is needed for disciplinary action and will deter other players from standing up against the perpetrators of harassment and abuse.” Fifpro also raised concerns about how professional football keeps players safe, the lack of gender diversity in the adjudicatory chamber, the length of time in carrying out the investigation which began in 2020, and the manner in which the report was published which “made it impossible for Fifpro to properly prepare the players for this deeply distressing decision that may significantly impact their wellbeing and careers”.

Written by Michael Lee, Solicitor at BLM (Michael.Lee@blmlaw.com)

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