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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