Football reviews

Following the disclosure by more than 20 football players that they were sexually abused, the FA has announced an internal review. At the same time, Crewe Alexandra has said it will launch an independent review.

Thus far, Leeds United, Stoke, Manchester City, Newcastle and Blackpool are all clubs which have been linked to the disclosure of abuse, in addition to Crewe Alexandra. Multiple police forces are investigating.

Commentators have described these disclosures as the tip of the iceberg and compared them to the disclosures which followed the initial revelations about Jimmy Savile. Calls have been made for a wide-ranging inquiry‎. Were it not facing challenges of its own then the IICSA would seem the obvious organisation to lead such a wide-ranging inquiry but that is probably unrealistic for it at the current time and importantly it needs not to be rushed in to another investigation without proper remit and focus. However, having multiple reviews, investigations and inquiries is not in anyone’s interest, least of all those abused nor those seeking to learn from what has happened so as to ensure best practice is in place now.

In due course those abused may seek redress. In undertaking reviews, regard should also be had to how and when support and redress, in whatever form appropriate, can be provided without undue complication and delay. Lessons should be learned from the Savile disclosures and the criticism of the IICSA so that football stands as a beacon of good practice which other organisations with less financial acumen can follow and learn from.


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Written by Paula Jefferson, partner

Sexual abuse and professional sport

Sexual abuse in the world of professional football has hit the headlines over the last few days.

Last week former professional footballer, Andy Woodward, bravely spoke publicly to The Guardian about having been seriously sexually abused by football coach and scout Barry Bennell whilst a youth player at Crewe Alexandra. Woodward, now 43, did make a career in professional football but believes that this ended prematurely at the age of 29 because of depression, anxiety and panic attacks caused as a result of the abuse.  He believes there are many more victims of Bennell.

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Sports organisations and child protection – the role of the coach

Recent coverage in Ireland of the trial of Bill Kenneally, an accountant who was also a sports coach, for the sexual abuse of boys between 1984 and 1987, has brought to the fore many common themes which the current abuse related inquiries will be interested in.  Mr Kenneally pleaded guilty to sample counts of abuse. His victim described how he had been warned not to speak of the abuse as his abuser was from a powerful political family. The use of a position of authority (here as a local businessman) to engineer access to victims and enforce their silence by threats and power is something which the IICSA has already said it will consider in its inquiry in England & Wales.

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