Hi all, I’m sure you have all seen the ongoing newspaper and media reports regarding the allegations and disclosures of footballers having being abused by sports coaches during the last few decades.
Sports coaches abusing children in their care is not a new phenomenon, this has been going on for years across a different range of sports with elite athletes to children who play sports in their local communities becoming victims. In recent years the sports of Swimming, Gymnastics have all had significant amounts of disclosures of abuse from elite athletes.
Perhaps the questions we should all ask ourselves is how has this happened right under our collective noses and how did we not see the warning signs? Part of the answer is the power of abusers to keep abuse a secret and as we have seen with the recent disclosures in the media, the influence that these coaches can have on future careers in sport and the way that sports bodies have covered up abusers for their own commercial benefit.
As a boy I dreamt of playing in the FA Cup final for my beloved Derby County! alas I was never that good as a footballer so I was content to watch on the TV, however many young boys and girls are clearly skilled and talented at football and do have bright futures, even playing in the lower leagues is attractive and could lead to a big money move to a premier league club. With even more money available due to increased sponsorship and media deals and the game now at saturation levels on our televisions the lure of the professional game is more enticing to young footballers now.
I would argue that even now there is not an open and honest philosophy within many sporting arenas and that corrupt mentalities and bowing to marketing demands and pressures leads people to make the wrong decisions sometimes to protect corporate branding. We have seen within the debacle of the recent FIFA financial scandals and drug use within athletics that the catalyst for change came from corporate sponsors who threatened to pull the plug on multi-million pound sponsorship deals unless individuals resigned. Adios Sepp Blatter et al!
Are these same corporate pressures preventing individuals taking the right course of action to prevent child abuse and exploitation and are we confident that sports governing bodies actually do the right thing and potentially exposing themselves to critique and possible litigation?
If we cast our minds back not long ago to the Jimmy Savile disaster, how many newspaper editors, senior BBC executives, senior charity workers, NHS staff and significant numbers of well known and well thought of TV personalities knew that he was a serial abuser but continually failed to do the right thing on numerous occasions and how many so called celebrities have actually been held to account?
A significant change in culture is required at very high levels to ensure that these abuses do not happen again and that a transparent and open dialogue is clear and understood by all parties including parents and young athletes. Sport governing bodies and perhaps those who sell corporate sponsorship should now insist on a culture of openness and honesty and part of commercial sponsorship contracts should feature a clause that requires abusers to be reported immediately and the appropriate support for any athlete and their families effected by any form of abuse. The victims should be able to access to the right level of support including counselling or any other therapeutic input that may be identified.
No more cover ups please.
Voices for Truth and Dignity
Combatting sexual violence in European spoor through the voices of those affected
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Education and Communities Lead
NWG CSE Response Unit